Soup To Nutz

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Happy 2014! This is the “no resolution zone.” I am not a fan of making resolutions I know will never be kept. Here it is just the middle of January and the seemingly endless game of retailer chess has already begun. If this is the precursor of what we should be expecting during the rest of 2014, we’re in for a roller coaster ride. Don’t forget to fasten your seatbelts!

Supermarkets of Cherry Hill, owned by the Ravitz family, has partnered with the Center for Family Services (CFS) in a pilot program designed to bring healthy food options to the Camden community, a designated food desert. On December 12, ShopRite from Home began bringing healthy food to Camden residents. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration has spearheaded the new initiative to address urban food deserts through the use of online ordering of groceries from supermarkets. As part of the program, CFS will provide Camden City residents with free access to computers so that they can choose their fresh groceries for delivery, ordering support, and provide training on a variety of related issues, including workshops on nutrition and budgeting. The orders will be delivered to CFSPromiseNeighborhoodFamilySuccessCenter and CamdenCity’s IsabelleMillerCommunity Center where residents can pick them up during a scheduled time at their convenience.

“We are proud to partner with ShopRite to provide this valuable service to the CamdenCity community,” said Merilee Rutolo of CFS. “This effort is part of our Promise Neighborhood pipeline because we have seen the difficulties families face with access to affordable and healthy food options. We are always looking for new and innovative ways to better serve the Camden community and bringing fresh, healthy food to our residents is very important. At the end of the twelve week pilot, we hope to see increased use of the virtual supermarket initiative and have a long term goal of improving the health outcomes and food access of CamdenCity children and families.”

“This pilot program is a great way to provide access to healthy and affordable food and will allow residents without access to cars or public transportation to have their groceries delivered to a centrally located designated pick-up facility,” said Jason Ravitz of Supermarkets of Cherry Hill. “This is an exciting new beginning for ShopRite in Camden and we look forward to the opening of our new store in 2015 so we can fully serve the community.”

Philabundance’s Fare & Square gave me an update on its not for profit market in the food desert of Chester, PA.Marlo DelSordo of Philabundance said that, while they are tweaking the product mix and pricing strategy, the overall reaction is still very good and membership is tipping the 8,000 member mark. Nutritional demonstrations will soon be added to bolster the underwhelming fresh sales and teach customers how to plan and make healthy meals even though meat sales do make up 24 percent of the total product mix. Grocery items top the spending list at 25 percent, followed by meat, dairy at 12 percent and produce a meager 8 percent. Uplift Solutions has trained the store personnel from the beginning and ongoing best practices training continues for the managers. Delsordo said staff turnover is much lower than traditional supermarkets and the staff feels great pride in their store. “Fare & Square opened and eliminated one food desert, which is a great victory. It is Chester’s store, but we are learning as we go and with the input of members and staff, we are working to make it Chester’s community store. We are well on our way to reaching our goal,” DelSordo stated.

The ShopRite of Brooklawn, operated by the Brown family, is offering new learning opportunities in the form of a new technology center at the AudobonHigh School in southern New Jersey to enhance their current curriculum for the students. A formal ribbon cutting took place on January 16. The new center includes a total of 25 technology work stations, two wireless printers and everything needed to inspire creative learning. The school educates approximately 500 6th through 12th grade students and has been ranked in the top 10 high schools in Camden County, New Jersey. “Our mission is to bring joy to the lives of the people we serve and we are dedicated to helping the communities we do business in,” said Jeff Brown, president and CEO of Brown’s Super Stores. “We are excited to bring cutting-edge technology to the students of AudubonHigh School and feel that this addition to the school’s curriculum will help better prepare the students for college and careers later in life.” The center was also sponsored by Lynmar Builders, Coca Cola, U.S. Global Glow and Precise Graphix Décor Company. Speaking of Jeff Brown, he and his wife, Sandy will be honored by Golden Slipper Camp on April 10 at the Philadelphia Hilton at City Avenue.

The event calendar is growing for the start of 2014, and this year’s schedule will fill up your dance card in no time. The New Jersey Food Council’s 2014 “Night of Distinction” is scheduled for March 20 at a new location: The Palace at SomersetPark in Somerset, NJ. Please mark your calendars so you don’t miss this special event honoring retail food industry movers and shakers. The awardees for 2014 are: John Ruane, Ahold USA; Joe Sofia, Wegmans; and Joseph Sheridan, Wakefern. For more information and to register please go to: www.njfoodcouncil.org