- PCC Community Markets has introduced a new program for its food bank partners that sets up each organization with an account through the cooperative grocer’s distributor, United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI), according to an emailed announcement on Tuesday.
- This allows the 17 food banks PCC works with to order directly from UNFI’s catalog using donations from members and shoppers, along with other sources. PCC seeded each account with $4,000 and will continue to contribute regularly.
- The approach gives food banks more choice and autonomy in securing food and other items, according to PCC. It also reflects a shift toward nutrition quality and not just quantity among food charities.
Like many grocers, PCC has spent decades making bulk food distributions to local food banks that include a limited selection of staple goods like rice and granola.
But this approach often doesn’t meet the practical and nutritional needs of food banks, according to the Seattle-based grocer. So it developed the new program that lets organizations like Jewish Family Services and the Issaquah Food Bank choose from thousands of items in UNFI’s catalog in the quantities they need and then set up delivery.
In this way, food banks can order items like personal care products and low-sodium packaged food that they couldn’t traditionally get, the co-op noted in its monthly member publication, Sound Consumer. PCC noted Jewish Family Services’ ability to order toilet paper and sturdier paper bags through UNFI as an example of the increased selection available to organizations. Food banks can also get order notifications directly from UNFI, whereas in the past those went through PCC.
Food banks have seen a major increase in demand during the pandemic, with 60 million people in the U.S. receiving charitable food assistance in 2020 — a 50% increase over the prior year, according to Feeding America. Amid that increase, food banks are focusing more on improving the nutritional quality of the goods they distribute, PCC said.
Having an account with a distributor like UNFI isn’t a new step for food banks, but PCC said that providing accounts across its lineup of partner organizations is a novel approach for a grocer. “Such programs are rare in part because of the traditional assumption that quantity and calories are the most important factors in food donations, rather than nutrition and quality,” the grocer said in Sound Consumer.
PCC said it will continue contributing to local food banks’ UNFI accounts through regular membership fundraising drives. The grocer also announced on Tuesday that it donated $30,000 to nonprofit organizations addressing food insecurity in downtown Seattle, where it will open a store in early 2022.