MONTPELIER — The donation boxes in the entry of the Shaw’s supermarkets in Montpelier and Berlin, including receptacles for the Montpelier food pantry and the Central Vermont Humane Society, have been removed without explanation after 13 years, said Theresa Murray-Clasen, executive director of Just Basics, on Tuesday.
Just Basics Inc. is the nonprofit that administers the Montpelier Food Pantry and the meals program at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center.
Murray-Clasen said she has reached out to Shaw’s management in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, for an explanation but has not heard back. She is hoping some public pressure may reverse what appears to be a corporate decision.
“I tried to take the high road,” said Murray-Clasen, adding that her concerns are shared by area clergy and businesspeople.
Andrew Brewer, president of the Montpelier Business Association, said the situation will be discussed at a meeting today of the association. He also said he expects the association to contribute proceeds from the Bag That Bag program to the food pantry in light of the loss of the Shaw’s donation drops.
Under the Bag That Bag program, every time a shopper uses either a reusable bag or his or her own bag at a participating merchant, the merchant donates 5 cents to a fund that benefits a variety of nonprofits.
“There’s definitely some head shaking,” said Brewer, “but that’s without hearing Shaw’s side of it.”
Efforts Tuesday to obtain a comment from Shaw’s Supermarkets Public Affairs Manager Jeffrey Gulko or another company representative were unsuccessful.
Anne Ward, director of operations at the Central Vermont Humane Society, said Tuesday, “We got a call from Shaw’s to pick (the boxes) up some weeks ago.” She said she was told the company had updated its policy around donations and nonprofit organizations “and it no longer allows for the bins in the entry.”
“We are disappointed, but they continue to support Central Vermont Humane Society in other ways,” said Ward.
Murray-Clasen said she thinks the policy change will backfire on Shaw’s when central Vermonters realize it’s hurting the food pantry.
“It’s a huge loss for us,” she said, noting that the Shaw’s drops funneled critical staples to the food bank throughout the year, supplementing the pantry’s major food drives in May and during the winter holiday season.
In an Aug. 23 letter to Gulko and Shaw’s, Murray-Clasen wrote, “It remains unclear why Shaw’s has made this decision,” pointing to comments on the Shaw’s website about how important it is for the company to be a good corporate citizen.
The website includes this statement: “Ending hunger in our local communities is core to our charitable mission. We support organizations providing comprehensive hunger relief programming and food distribution.”
Murray-Clasen’s letter continues, “Shaw’s decision to remove Just Basics Inc. customer donation boxes will result in the annual loss of at least 7,000 pounds of nonperishable foods.”
Murray-Clasen said she has not heard from Shaw’s since sending the letter.
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