Shareholder meetings at Giant Food Inc. are fairly routine events. Even the usually predictable questions and comments from the floor by corporate gadfly Evelyn Y. Davis seem tame in comparison to some of her more widely publicized outbursts at other companies' annual meetings.

For many Giant stockholders the highlight of the annual meetings is the company's famous buffet luncheon which usually precedes management's report. About the only shareholder complaint is an occasional question about the availability of a particular product in a given store. Otherwise, management can usually expect to hear laudatory comments for producing yet another year of robust earnings and for increasing the food chain's huge market shares in the Washington and Baltimore areas.

Davis did not attend last week's annual meeting. However, one shareholder made a radical departure from the script by putting Giant's management on the defensive about its hiring and promotion policies. Douglas Moore, a former member of the D.C. City Council, wanted to know why there aren't any blacks among the 83 pharmacy managers or the 21 company officers pictured in Giant's 1987 annual report.

Moore, not known as a shareholder activist, is a veteran political activist, nevertheless, and an expert in the art of confrontational politics.

A former newspaper editor recalled during the early 1970s a story that may be instructive in assessing Moore's criticism of Giant. According to the editor, Moore had complained about the lack of coverage of civil rights activities in which he was involved during the late 60s. When the editor explained to Moore why some events were covered and others were not, Moore reportedly replied, "Oh, in other words, you can be programmed."

Whatever Moore's motives, the thrust of his question to Giant officials was fair and legitimate and could be applied to most publicly owned companies, not just in metropolitan Washington, but in all of corporate America.

Giant officials did their best to assure Moore that there is no conscious effort to exclude blacks from management, adding that the company has at least six black pharmacy management trainees.

"We're color blind and religion blind," insisted Giant's chairman, Israel Cohen. "Anyone who is qualified has opportunities" to advance at Giant.

While Giant officials have chosen not to provide figures showing the number of blacks and other minorities in middle management positions, it should be noted, in fairness, that blacks are employed as managers and assistant managers in some of the chain's supermarkets.

Still, Moore apparently isn't alone in his concern about Giant's hiring and promotion policies. Just one day before Moore used the annual meeting as a forum for his complaint, Giant reached an agreement with black leaders in Baltimore to develop a program to hire and promote more blacks throughout the company. In addition, the agreement calls for the company to provide more opportunities for minority-owned suppliers to sell products to the chain.

As part of the agreement with the coalition, a spokesman for Giant said, "We are not going to give out numbers" denoting the racial composition of the company's work force.

We have found that it can be disruptive" to provide information about the racial makeup of the work force, the spokesman continued. "What will be positive is the success of the program. We don't look at this {agreement with the coalition} as an end to the meetings but as a beginning."

In signing a "statement of cooperation" with the coalition of civil rights organizations, including an interdenominational group of clergymen; the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Giant didn't agree to fill any quotas or establish dates for achieving certain goals. It did agree, however, to administer an affirmative action program, provide technical assistance to minority suppliers, conduct business with minority-owned financial institutions, spend more advertising dollars with minority-owned publications and broadcast outlets and make corporate donations to minority causes.

Some elements of the agreement obviously can be implemented much faster than others. Giant already is a major contributor to charitable causes throughout the community. Advertising in black media can begin next week. So can the recruitment of minorities and staff development to enhance their chances of being promoted. In any event, signing a joint statement of cooperation implies that both sides are prepared to contribute to the success of the agreement. In short, the coalition also has a responsibility to recruit and refer qualified minorities for management positions at Giant.

Meanwhile, only a few black firms are in the food processing and wholesale business, though Giant already has customer-supplier relationships with minority-owned companies such as Parks Sausages Co. and the makers of Barnes' Bad News Sauce.

Giant may, indeed, be "color blind and religion blind" as Cohen said, but Moore makes a valid point when he says it's "not good public relations or good business" to have no blacks among 21 top officers and 83 pharmacy managers.

Cohen fully understands the importance of good public relations to business.