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Smith's Food & Drug Stores has launched a project that is expected to generate an additional 360,000 pounds of food to the Utah Food Bank, while creating jobs for those with disabilities.
The Utah grocer has partnered with Columbus Community Center, a local nonprofit that serves people with disabilities, to operate a centralized reclamation center where unsold nonperishable products are scanned, sorted and prepared to distribute to the food bank and other statewide food pantries. At the center's Salt Lake County warehouse, workers scan each product to determine if it should be returned to the original vendor, discarded or packaged for distribution. The goods are then prepared for pick up by local food banks.
Since the program was launched in March, Smith's has provided 129,000 more meals for food pantries, with a donation value of $561,102.
"For years, Smith's sent its unsold products to third-party companies that would discard damaged foods and send the rest back to the manufacturer or sell the goods to discount operations," said Marsha Gilford, Smith's vice president of public affairs. "With this innovative approach, high-quality, nonperishable foods are getting into the hands of people who need them, while actively employing people with disabilities in our community."
Last year, Smith's donated 2 million pounds of food to the Utah Food Bank, which includes donations from the Grocery Rescue program, where unsaleable but still nutritious foods are given to the pantry.
Since 1968, Columbus Community Center at 3495 S. West Temple has worked with clients with developmental and physical disabilities. Columbus serves about 400 people a year through training and employment services, residential services and a day activity program.
Workers provide assembly work, order fulfillment, packaging, reclamation, labeling and kitting, a process in which separate but related items are packaged together as one unit.
Utah Food Bank provides food to a statewide network of 130 emergency food pantries and agencies. Last fiscal year, Utah Food Bank distributed about 36.3 million pounds of food and goods, the equivalent of over 28.4 million meals for families and individuals in need. Utah Food Bank also served nearly 221,000 Kids Cafe meals, delivered almost 42,000 food boxes and filled more than 62,000 kids' backpacks for weekends and school holidays.
Smith's, a division of the Kroger Co., operates 131 stores in seven Western states, including 47 stores in Utah. Smith's charitable giving, in partnership with 15,600 employees, customers and suppliers, totaled $10 million in cash and food products to local Utah organizations in 2012.