Giant Food Inc. yesterday announced it has agreed to develop a program to hire and promote more minorities and to increase support of minority-owned businesses and groups in response to six months of meetings with civil rights groups who raised questions about the company's employment practices.

The agreement won praise from George Buntin, executive secretary of Baltimore's NAACP, one of the groups involved in the negotiations, as well as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Baltimore's Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and the Justice Department's Community Relations Service.

"They {Giant officials} were very cooperative. They saw the process as being in their best interest. I wish other negotiations would go that easily. I've been involved in several, and this was the best," said Buntin.

Giant Chairman Israel Cohen said in a written statement: "We are very pleased that our meetings have produced a constructive plan for furthering Giant's existing programs for fair minority practices."

Giant agreed to make a greater effort to hire and promote black employes, although no specific goals were set. Instead, black leaders will meet quarterly with Giant officials to monitor progress. The agreement is in effect until 1992.

The black leaders also wanted Giant to increase its business with minority-owned companies. But Buntin said there are not a lot of blacks in the food processing industry. So Giant agreed to provide technical assistance to qualified minority-owned food suppliers.

Giant agreed to conduct business with minority-owned financial institutions. Buntin said that there were problems finding banks with sufficient assets to meet Giant's requirements, but that discussions are under way with one bank, and a consortium of three other minority-owned banks may be developed.

The grocery chain also will increase advertising in the Baltimore Afro-American and other minority-owned newspapers, magazines and television and radio stations.

The discussions stem from a lawsuit filed by Jeannette Townes, who who claimed she was fired by Giant in October 1985 because she is black. The agreement did not affect the lawsuit or a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by Townes