Reaching Out Across the Nation: Alfa Beta Stores Donate Surplus Food Directly to Local Organizations
For more than 20 years, Alfa Beta has been a leader in fighting hunger in Greece. Company founder Gerasimos Vassilopoulos established the Greek Food Bank in 1995, and our warehouses have been collecting unsold, non-perishable foods to donate to the organization since that time.
Yet until recently, logistical challenges prevented us from donating the perishable items approaching their sell-by date that we collected each day from our stores’ shelves. So we collaborated with Boroume, a hunger-relief organization, to find a solution: Bring local food relief agencies to the stores to collect surplus perishable food and distribute it directly to the people who need it.
The result was a new program aptly named Trofima Agapsis (LoveFood), which is the first and only program of its kind in Greece. It comes at a time not only of continued economic crisis, but also as the country is dealing with an influx of refugees.
Given the situation in Greece right now, this is the program we’re most proud of - it fulfills the greatest need.
Communication & Sustainability Manager, Alfa Beta
Small changes make a big difference
Our donation system to the Greek Food Bank is implemented through our 3 warehouses. But individual stores didn’t have the vehicles, or procedures, to efficiently transport perishable surplus food back to our warehouses in Athens and Thessaloniki, or to the NGOs in those cities. With no way to get this food to those in need, the only option was to throw it away.
In response, we created a local donation network for our stores. In partnership with Boroume, we reached out to 128 NGOs that serve communities around some of our store locations. Each day, store associates collected food nearing its sell-by date – including packaged produce, dairy items, and frozen and packaged meat products – and set it aside in boxes for individual food relief agencies. The organizations then picked up those boxes when stores closed each day and distributed the food to the people they served.
We piloted the program at 3 stores in 2013, grew by a few dozen in 2014, and by 2015 had 166 stores on board – more than half of our locations. The program has been “nothing short of a revolution in Greece,” says Boroume spokesman Alexander Theodoridis.
Expanding our impact
Through this program, we donated more than €828 800 worth of food in 2015 (much of our surplus, such as unpackaged produce or seafood, is ineligible for donation). These donations made a real difference: For example, donations from just one of our stores provide 80% of the food needed at an Athens orphanage and provided more than 300 000 meals to more than 70 000 people.
Our program has won several awards, including a Responsible Business Award and a Self Service Excellence Award for Corporate Social Responsibility. We’re excited to expand it to all 231 Alfa Beta supermarkets in 2016.
“There are still too many people in need of food in Greece, and this is an essential way of helping,” Macheras says.
The program has paved the way for others and set a wonderful example for how a large company has the ability to cooperate with an NGO like Boroume to help thousands of people with the greatest need, at a local level.