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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Market Basket has started donating perishable goods to food banks

NASHUA – With a revolt by workers continuing to interrupt its distribution system, Market Basket has started donating perishable goods to food banks in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, hoping to prevent it from becoming another casualty of turmoil at the grocery chain.

Nancy Mellitt, director of development for New Hampshire Food Bank, said the organization began receiving meat, produce and other perishable goods from Market Basket on Friday. ...

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NASHUA – With a revolt by workers continuing to interrupt its distribution system, Market Basket has started donating perishable goods to food banks in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, hoping to prevent it from becoming another casualty of turmoil at the grocery chain.

Nancy Mellitt, director of development for New Hampshire Food Bank, said the organization began receiving meat, produce and other perishable goods from Market Basket on Friday.

The deliveries began as a dispute between Market Basket employees and the company’s management entered its second week, preventing the New England grocery giant from moving product onto its store shelves.

“They wanted to distribute it before it got to the point where it would go to the landfill,” Mellitt said.

New Hampshire Food Bank is the largest distributor of charitable food donations in the state.

The organization supplies hundreds of food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other agencies around New Hampshire, providing nearly half of all food that reaches their tables. Distribution is coordinated through the food bank’s headquarters in Manchester.

“We get the food here and then agencies order online, and out of what we have in our inventory, and then either come and pick their order up if they’re within a 50-mile radius of us, or we have a delivery schedule,” Mellitt said.

With no state or federal funding, New Hampshire Food Bank relies heavily on individual donations, as well as a regular supply of food from grocery stores in the area.

Mellitt said those donations have not traditionally come from Market Basket; Hannaford and Shaw’s are some of the biggest suppliers.

But the uncertainty at Market Basket stores has temporarily provided a new source of fruit, vegetables and other perishable goods for the organization.

The change comes in the wake of recent decisions by other grocers to close down stores in New Hampshire, coupled with a move by Shaw’s to no longer supply fresh meats to the food bank, Mellitt said.

“Our protein was down significantly,” she said.

Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter is among the agencies that rely on the Food Bank’s supplies. Social worker Eileen Brady said the facility was still waiting Monday to see new donations of meat, fruits and vegetables from Market Basket arrive.

The Soup Kitchen & Shelter received pastries from the supermarket last week, although Brady said she believed the donation was offered by local Market Basket store managers and not corporate management.

Susan Dignan, director of the food pantry at Corpus Christi in Nashua, said store managers at the Market Basket in Hudson recently made a similar donation.

“I think they must have left us 50 trays of, you know, bagels, breads, muffins,” she said.

Loaves of bread that arrived to the Soup Kitchen & Shelter Monday afternoon as part of a delivery from the New Hampshire Food Bank were the first signs of the new supply from Market Basket’s corporate headquarters.

At the same time, Brady said, an exodus of Market Basket shoppers to other supermarkets has put a dent in donations from those stores.

“A lot of the Market Basket customers have been going to Hannaford instead, and I would say that they’re at Hannaford more than they’re at any other place, clearing out their shelves,” she said.

Mellitt said administrators at the Food Bank appreciate the new donations from Market Basket, but uncertainty surrounding the future of the company poses a major concern.

One out of every nine people in New Hampshire is “food insecure,” meaning they don’t have a reliable source for their next meal, and workers at the low end of the pay scale are in danger of falling into that category, she said.

“Our main concern is for the welfare of their employees because we’re concerned that they may be in need of our assistance,” she said.

Representatives from Market Basket could not be reached for comment Monday.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).