The Giant Food grocery chain, which refused last week to make available food discarded in trash bins, said yesterday it will give an organization that helps feed the poor access to unsold perishable foods otherwise headed for the trash.
Giant Foods public affairs director Barry Scher said the Capital Area Community Food Bank will be permitted to regularly collect discarded food set aside by the management at 6 to 10 of the chain's 98 Washington-area stores, beginning at the end of the month.
On Aug. 11, 28 activists and religious workers were arrested on trespass charges after refusing to leave Giant's headquarters in Landover where they unsuccessfuly tried to persuade company officials to give away unsalable food to the poor. At that time, Scher said that safety and sanitary considerations made it impossible to give away perishable food considered unsalable.
Several members of the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV), which organized last week's protest, met again yesterday with Giant officials who agreed to donate the food in a test program "under controlled conditions." The food bank distributes food to other agencies, including soup kitchens and half-way houses.
Scher said he opposed CCNV's initial proposal to make food found in trash bins available directly to the needy because "we don't want people knocking on our back doors saying they're from different organizations."
He said the company will start working out details of the program today at a meeting with food bank representatives.
CCNV spokeswoman Carol Fennelly, who was among those arrested last week, said she is pleased with Giant's decision, even though her group will not directly receive the discarded food, which includes dairy products and fresh fruits and vegetables.
"We always knew that Giant had a conscience," she said, adding that CCNV had planned to begin a boycott against the chain Saturday if the company had not reconsidered its position.
Scher said the threatened boycott had no impact on the company's decision.
He said he hopes the new donation plan can be expanded to all Giant stores, but added that this will depend on the food bank's ability to collect food as the number of distribution sites is increased.
The food bank has been distributing shelf-quality, nonperishable products from Giant warehouses to nearly 200 agencies serving the poor for the past 2 1/2 years, according to its director, Rick Stack.
Concerning yesterday's decision, Stack added, "Giant has the opportunity to take the lead and set a precedent in the area of corporate social consciousness."