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The Unsung Heroes of Local Communities

By: David Fikes,Vice President, Consumer/Community Affairs and Communication, Food Marketing Institute 

FMI Community Outreach Awards Best PracticesThe Community Outreach Awards have become one of the most anticipated and fun annual recognitions at FMI. While I often witness how the stores I frequent are involved in making a difference in our neighborhood, through the awards, I get to glimpse how the oft-unmentioned kindness of grocers throughout the U.S. can change their neighbor’s lives, proving that grocers are indeed, the unsung heroes of their local communities.

The heartbreaking photos and news accounts reporting the damage caused by the recent natural disasters have shaken us all – contributing to an increased awareness of the fragility of our world.  In the midst of this unsteadiness, we need a little goodwill to help restore order – both physically and emotionally. FMI’s Community Outreach Awards seek to shine a little light on those all-important acts of benevolence and concern. 

Each year, food retailers submit their best practice examples of programs designed to educate and mentor youth; impact the overall health or engagement of a community; or bring a meal to those in underserved areas. Here are a few examples from the 2016 Community Outreach Award Winners:

Youth Development Program Award Winner

Last  year’s winners, Northgate Gonzalez Market’s “Cooking up Change” helped high school students from low-income schools transform their school lunch menu; develop valuable culinary arts skills, improve self-esteem, and inspires them to continue their education in culinary arts and nutrition sciences.

Since 2012, lunches from Cooking up Change have been integrated into the school food menus in public schools and the program has raised $250,000 to Support Kid Healthy, the Orange County Regional Cooking up Change Contest.  

Programs Addressing Food Insecurity Award Winner

The "Double Up Food Bucks" program created by Family Fare, a SpartanNash company, is a public-private partnership administered by Fair Food Network with support provided by federal, state and private sources. For each dollar of fresh Michigan produce SNAP customers purchased an equivalent amount of points will be earned and placed on their yes Card. In 2016, the number of participating stores has more than tripled. Number of customer participation increased 61 percent from August to September.

Neighborhood Health Improvement Program Award Winner

In September 2016, Food Lion Feeds' Great Pantry Makeover program transformed 38 food pantries in its 10-state footprint in 30 days. Food Lion mobilized its community to eliminate hunger by providing 1.7 million meals in total and more than 1,400 volunteer hours by renovating facilities, providing equipment and stocking pantries. 

“People’s Pick” Social Media Award Winner

Hy-Vee, Inc. designed a free, online program to help kids and families make health, exercise and nutrition not only priorities in their everyday lives but also fun! Hy-Vee KidsFit is an interactive health and wellness website for children, teens and families that offers a free, online personal trainer. On average, the program is reaching 1,000 to 2,000 kids each week and adding numerous people to its Facebook fan page, website hits and weekly challenge sign-ups. Through their work with schools and assemblies, the Hy-Vee KidsFit team visited more than 50 schools and reached nearly 21,000 students last school year.

How has your store benefited your local community? Tell us by submitting your story for the 2017 Community Outreach Awards at, and read more examples of best practices here