September 17, 2014

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Giant Eagle extends Harvest for Hunger campaign

LORAIN — As many households plan for their traditional Easter Sunday dinner, thoughts turn to the ham, potatoes, vegetables, rolls and other fixings to feed family and friends.

The typical last-minute rush of shoppers for all those items is a chief reason for an unplanned push by Giant Eagle supermarkets this weekend to extend the chain’s Check Out Hunger campaign to try to give Second Harvest Food Bank’s 2014 Harvest for Hunger effort a final shot in the arm.

“This isn’t part of the normal campaign, but Giant Eagle decided a few weeks ago they wanted to extend things an extra week as donations were down a bit across some Giant Eagle stores,” said Susan Bartosch, external affairs manager for Second Harvest.

Giant Eagle announced Wednesday it will team with Huntington Bank to match any donation made by shoppers in Giant Eagle checkout lanes up to a total of $20,000 between today and Saturday.

The last-minute push comes at an opportune time for Second Harvest, which typically realizes as much as half of its yearly Harvest for Hunger donations from Giant Eagle, Bartosch said.

The 2014 goal is a minimum $200,000, which would provide 1.2 million meals by the Lorain-based agency’s 110-member network of food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters and after-school programs in Lorain, Erie, Huron and Crawford counties.

While donations at some Giant Eagle supermarkets have been off by as much as 30 percent, other stores in the Pittsburgh-based chain have held their own or even seen above-average giving, Bartosch said.

“We’re not quite sure of the reasons why … maybe people aren’t doing as much shopping,” Bartosch said in acknowledging the area’s continuing economic struggles.

While the Harvest for Hunger campaign officially ran from March 1 to April 14, some individual fundraising efforts by city halls, civic groups and other organizations won’t have final numbers to report for a few weeks yet, Bartosch said.

Still, overall giving is up about 10 percent over 2013 with the exception of the Giant Eagle stores, Bartosch said.

The Giant Eagle Check Out Hunger offers shoppers $1, $4 or $10 coupons in checkout aisles that can be turned into cashiers who add the amount to grocery bills.

Second Harvest estimates each dollar donated provides four meals, but the doubled donations between today and Saturday will provide eight meals for every $1 given.

The 2013 Check Out Hunger effort generated more than $1 million from Giant Eagle stores in the 21 Northeast Ohio counties served by Harvest for Hunger.

Bartosch said Giant Eagle officials opted to offer the matching donation promotion to try to finish their 2014 fighting hunger efforts with a flourish.

“Very few efforts by companies, schools or civic groups last six weeks,” Bartosch said.

The demand for food remains high, with more than 50,000 — 43 percent of whom were children — helped in Lorain County alone last year, Second Harvest officials said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.