Ocean State Job Lot makes major donation to Worcester County Food Bank
By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Shrewsbury – Throughout the year, the Worcester County Food Bank (WCFB), located at 474 Boston Turnpike (Route 9), serves as a resource for 149 agencies such as food pantries, meal sites and soup kitchens throughout 60 central Massachusetts communities. In a month, it distributes 440,000 pounds of food, enough for 85,000 meals a week.
This would not be possible, Executive Director Jean McMurray said, if not for the different donation sources, including federal and state government agencies, civic and private sectors and food retailers. On Jan. 15, the food bank received a major boost when an 18-wheeler from the Rhode Island-based retailer Ocean State Job Lot (OSJL) pulled into the WCFB parking lot bearing 40,000 pounds of nutritious shelf-stable food.
The WCFB was not the only food bank to receive such a donation on that day; the company also delivered equally large shipments to other food banks throughout New England. According to OSJL officials, the donations – enough for approximately 333,3330 meals – were the largest single donation of this kind by a private company in New England.
The program, “Three Square Meals” was initiated by OSJL Owner/Partner Alan Perlman, the company’s marketing director David Sarlitto said.
“We knew there was a crushing need, a greater demand at food banks,” he said. “So we took up the battle cry and decided to outrageously scale things up.”
Throughout November and December 2012, the retailers asked customers to consider making donations of $1 as they paid for their purchases. OSJL agreed to match up to $100,000.
“We did have a concern about how much would be donated,” Sarlitto said. “We know things are still tight for a lot of people. But the opposite happened – we got a record number of donations.”
Between customer and matching donations, $1.2 million was raised. OSJL then leveraged its wholesale buying power to purchase shelf-stable foods such as pasta, cereal, canned vegetables and fruit, soup, canned tuna, dried beans, rice, and more, Sarlitto said.
The retailer also donated all purchasing logistics, administration, management, delivery labor, and fuel.
“People who go into our stores know we don’t spend a lot of money on niceties and fixtures – we pass savings onto our customers,” Sarlitto added. “They should know that 100 percent of their donations to this program helped to buy food for their neighbors. We’re hoping that this will drive others to do the same type of program.”
OSJL is a regular, consistent donor to the WCFB, McMurray said, but “this one is a special one.”
“They are really making a statement of giving,” she added.
That was important, she noted, because “food insecurity has changed dramatically” in the 17 years she has been at the food bank, especially since the 2008 recession.
“Many are still long-term unemployed or underemployed,” she said. “The elderly often need assistance.”
“There’s no one type of person who needs help,” she added. “It could be someone like your child, your grandmother. Look in the mirror; it could be someone like you.”
McMurray noted that often people will come up to her and thank her for the WCFB’s assistance in helping them getting through rough times.
“They want to know what they can do to help,” she said. “Because they know – you never know when you will need the help yourself.”
It is most often around the holidays that food drives are most common. And WCFB officials are very grateful for that assistance, she stressed.
“But we hope people may consider thinking of us in April and August, too,” she added.
For more information on how to help, call 508-842-3663 or go to http://foodbank.org, where there are also tips on how to organize a food drive.
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