Brown’s Super Stores has always been a company dedicated to solving the issues of food insecurity in our country. We were involved in the PA Fresh Food Financing Initiative and are dedicated to bringing healthy, affordable food to “food desert” neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia. Brown’s Super Stores created a Zero Waste Initiative out of a company-wide effort to promote Sustainability in all areas of business. Our eleven store Philadelphia-based chain operating under the ShopRite banner is committed to supporting our local community in every aspect, including through food donations. This program, which includes composting, recycling, and food donations, couples those two goals with its holistic approach of supporting the environment and the community.
In January 2012, Brown’s met with each store and developed a “how to” program for food donations. Our goal was to increase the amount of “Fresh” food that we donated to our local communities instead of sending to landfills. We began working with Philabundance, a well-known hunger relief organization, who helped us get in contact with groups for stores that were not already donating daily. Philabundance also helped us launch a program for meat donations; all stores are now donating meat which is great for local communities but is rarely included in most meat donation programs. Aside from this program, since Brown’s inception in 1989, we have supported the communities we serve throughout the year, using money raised through our annual golf outing to support community events and efforts. We’ve recently renovated a basketball court and pumptrack so that kids have a safe place to play. We’ve also coordinated Goods for Guns events to reduce violence in our communities and even sponsored a technology room full of new computers for a local high school.
The objective of the Zero Waste program is for the entire company to reach zero waste, which is defined as 90% waste diversion from landfills and incinerators. The goal of this program is twofold, by reducing waste Brown’s can help protect the environment and contribute to a beautiful world for generations to come. But also, this effort supports the local community by allowing Brown’s to increase their food donations to local nonprofits and charities, which assists neighbors currently suffering from food insecurity. Brown’s food donations are primarily comprised of fresh meat, produce, and dairy, the items in highest demand by food banks and other food relief programs. The emphasis on saving fresh food to promote the health of those in need is a driving factor for this program.
This program has been successful due to the empowerment of associates who are passionate about sustainability. Associates were given training manuals and orientation and “Green Teams” were established at each store and given accountability for the project. The Green Teams hold regular meetings and events to get other associates and customers involved in this effort. A retail sustainability tool kit was created to engage customers around the composting, recycling, and food donation happening in the stores. In addition, a formal auditing program was established, which included scheduled waste audits to track progress. By end of Q3 2013, 105 Tons of food had been organically recycled and 13.6 lbs of fresh food had been donated to local food banks, creating over 27,000 meals just this year for families in need in our community. In addition to those meals, 1,000 turkey dinners were donated to families in need, providing Thanksgiving meals to over 6,000 people this year. While the YTD numbers are impressive, the program to date has achieved even bigger impact. Through Q3 2013, Brown’s had a 48% trash reduction, 84.5% diversion rate, and had donated 1900 Tons of fresh food, which is the equivalent of 670,000 meals for neighbors in need. This effort has been hugely successful in tackling current food insecurity, but also aids in the preservation of our environment to ensure the security of our communities for generations to come.
“Supermarkets are very large facilities that run 24/7, which can take a toll on the environment,” said Jeff Brown, President & CEO of Brown’s Super Stores. “We empower our employees to critically examine how we can reduce supermarkets’ carbon footprint and work toward a brighter, more sustainable future. By doing this, we are able to address current issues of food insecurity in our communities. We are proud of the fresh food donations that are made possible through our Zero Waste program and are dedicated to supporting our neighbors through this initiative.”
The U.S. EPA recognized Shop-Rite of Roxborough, one of 11 Brown’s Super Stores, as winner of their Food Recovery Challenge for grocers. "By committing to donate food and to compost food waste, Shoprite of Roxborough is serving as a significant environmental steward" said Shawn M. Garvin, EPA's Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator. "As a result of their efforts, Shop-Rite of Roxborough diverted food waste while providing nutritious meals to members of the local community in need. Food not suitable for consumption was recycled into a nutrient-rich soil supplement which will nourish crops and landscaping, thereby reducing the use of fertilizers, pesticides and water."