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In grocers we trust

A new survey finds Canadians have little faith in the grocery industry. Given all that supermarkets do for their communities, how is that possible?

I can’t think of a business that does more for the places it serves than the grocery industry. Virtually every grocer in Canada contributes to its community.

Think about it. Across the country, stores sponsor kids’ soccer and baseball teams, hold barbecues to raise money for hospital expansions, donate items to food banks and other charities, hold special events for good causes and do so much more. At head offices, grocers make donations to worthy projects, then raise more money with donations from customers at the cash. On top of all that, our country’s grocers employ hundreds of thousands of people. For many young people, the local supermarket is their first job.

You’d think with all that they do, grocers would rate favourably among Canadians. Apparently not. A recent poll by Environics found only 43% of Canadians trust the grocery industry. What? Grocers fared only slightly better than our highly respected banks (just 40% trust them) but behind broadcast and streaming services (44% trust). How is it possible that nearly six in 10 Canadians don’t trust the grocery industry?

Canadian grocers always pitch in when there is a need. Consider, for instance, the terrible wildfire that struck Fort McMurray, in Alberta, in May. Tens of thousands of people had to flee the flames and more than 2,000 buildings, mostly homes, were destroyed. How did grocers respond? Overwhelmingly.

Take Federated Co-operatives. It donated $100,000 to the Red Cross for disaster assistance in Fort McMurray. Fed Co-op members also pitched in. During the height of the fire, the Co-op in Plamondon, Alta., two hours south of Fort McMurray, stayed open 24 hours to serve the rush of evacuees. Employees and community volunteers worked day and night to keep supplies on shelves. Further south, in Boyle, Alta., North Corridor Co-op handed our free coffee and kept its gas bar open to ensure evacuees could fuel up.

St. Paul Co-op deployed its “Co-op Community Connector”—a trailer that can prepare food for large groups at public events—to serve meals to evacuees. It also collected donations from customers, which it said it would match up to a total of $5,000, and donated two cents per litre of fuel sold.

Associated Grocers gave water to an independent store near Fort McMurray for distribution to firefighters and evacuees. The Grocery People started a “Round-up for Red Cross” to raise money for families hit by the fire.

Freson Bros.’ 15 stores in Alberta held barbecues to raise funds and matched the amount raised for a total donation to the Red Cross of $115,000. Other co-ops also supported relief efforts: Sherwood Co-op donated $2,500; Prince Albert and Saskatoon Co-ops each donated $5,000. Others sold cakes, held breakfasts and barbecues to raise money for Fort McMurray.

Grocers across Canada chipped in as well. Many No Frills collected donations at the cash; Calgary Co-op donated $181,000; Longo’s, through its family charitable foundation, contributed $25,000 and set up a fundraising page, appealing directly for donations. In addition, countless individual stores, such as Foodland, Sobeys, Loblaws and Metro, contributed funds.

That’s just the response to one disaster. Every week somewhere in Canada a grocer helps its community by raising funds, for everything from kids’ breakfast programs to hockey teams to senior citizens.

If that’s only worth a 43% trust rating, then those people who were polled know nothing about their grocers. CG

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