Ahold_CFB_Girl with apple

Ahold USA

How Do You Create an Initiative That Engages Employees and Has Lasting Impact?

Nearly 16 million children in the United States don’t know whether they’ll eat tonight. Does this worry you? It worries the team at Ahold, USA.  As the American arm of an international chain of supermarkets, the corporation is focused on feeding people: those who can afford to pay, and those who can’t.

In 2011, Tracy Pawelski, Vice President of External Communications at Ahold, engaged The Philanthropic Initiative to design and implement a strategic initiative that would achieve the mission of its corporation foundation, Our Family Foundation: to improve the quality of life for children, fight hunger and build healthy communities.

Through interviews and discussions with Tracy and foundation board members TPI helped the Foundation determine the goals of the initiative. The consensus? To fight child hunger

Determining where the need was greatest, and collaborating with Ahold to ensure the program would have long-term impact, we developed the Fighting Child Hunger initiative – a three-year, $9 million grants program. To launch the program, we reviewed proposals from regional food banks in Ahold’s service area and worked closely with the Foundation to select 21 Fighting Child Hunger grantees.

These core grants enable food banks to grow existing programs, bring new models to their region, and invest in critical infrastructure such as food trucks and refrigeration equipment for local pantries to offer more fresh produce and meats to children and families.

However, Ahold wanted to go beyond the grants and develop an integrated strategy that would engage employees and customers and leverage even greater impact. As Tracy explains, “Our first focus was the grants program, and as part of that we wanted an associate engagement component. We considered how we could build awareness and support for this effort with our associates and our customers, so they would know that we’re committed to the fight against child hunger.”

With a long history of store-based community volunteerism, Ahold needed a structure that would empower local employees to join the cause and track their efforts. Working with the company’s human resources and community relations teams we created the Ahold Associate Volunteer Program that matches volunteer hours with donations to food bank partners.  

Thanks to the Fighting Child Hunger initiative, many more children have access to regular meals. In the first year of the initiative, the grantees hoped to serve 1.8 million meals to children through the Fighting Child Hunger grants. They surpassed that goal and were able to serve 2.1 million meals. The three-year goal is to serve nearly 10 million meals to children.  Perhaps even more significantly, the investments in these food banks – through partnerships, capacity building and program growth – will be at work long beyond the three-year grant period.

In addition, Ahold’s Associate Volunteer Program has inspired employees to donate a combined total of 1,400 hours to support the Fighting Child Hunger grantees. Linda Figueiredo, an employee of Stop & Shop New England, volunteered at the Greater Boston Food Bank with her team. “As a group it was unanimous that we were all taken aback by the statistics of hunger in Massachusetts.  We had a positive experience that was very rewarding. This was our first experience individually and as a group volunteering at the Food Bank, and we have all agreed that going forward we would make it a regular event for the department.”

TPI continues to help Ahold administer the Fighting Child Hunger grants and Associate Volunteer Program.  Through our partnership, we are also connecting grantees with the company, helping to leverage a range of corporate resources that support the efforts of the food banks and raise awareness about childhood hunger.