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July 29. 2014 8:14PM

Food chain roles change in light of Market Basket saga


Market Basket shopper Lillian Meunier picks up some vegetables at the New Horizons Food Pantry Tuesday afternoon in Manchester. (JOSH GIBNEY/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — In a sign of how food travels, Market Basket in recent days began donating meat and produce to the New Hampshire Food Bank to distribute to other food pantries rather than see the food spoil.

Cashiers at Market Basket’s Elm Street store on Tuesday gave away bread and hamburger buns with that day’s expiration date on the wrappers.

And New Horizons food pantry — which relies on donations of food past its prime from Hannaford supermarkets on a regular basis — passed out fruit and vegetables Tuesday to some Market Basket customers who couldn’t get produce if not for the pantry.

“They’re coming to us because they really have nowhere to walk to, and we don’t turn them away,” said Charlie Sherman, New Horizons’ executive director.

Taking a toll on customers

The family feud at Market Basket that has led to customer boycotts, picketing workers and limited food deliveries to stores has caused many shoppers to deviate from their normal weekly routines.

Lillian Meunier of Manchester normally takes 10 minutes to walk from home to Market Basket on Elm Street. But with the upheaval at the supermarket chain, she spends up to an hour or more each way to take a bus to the Hannaford store on Hanover Street or the one in Bedford.

“I hate to go to every different store,” she said outside New Horizons. Meunier said she doesn’t have four bucks to spare on round-trip bus fare and comes to New Horizons to help fill her fridge and cupboards.

At New Horizons, Meunier collected lettuce, apples, red peppers and even a cake to carry home in a reusable plastic bag on Tuesday.

Sherman said New Horizons volunteers drive vans to Manchester-area Hannaford stores daily to pick up donated food, including meat, poultry, baked goods, fruits and vegetables.

But with more Market Basket shoppers going to Hannaford to shop, that has resulted in less leftover food — and about 10 percent less in food donations for New Horizons in recent days, Sherman said.

“We now have to make up in purchasing product to making up the difference,” Sherman said, noting that financial donations are slow in the summer.

Business down 80 percent

At the Market Basket on Elm Street, Assistant Store Director Dennis Carpenito said business at his store was down more than 80 percent over last year.

Business was so slow that bread was expiring before it could be sold.

“We don’t want to throw it out,” said Casey Belanger, an assistant manager. “Better to give it out.”

Starting last Friday, Market Basket donated meat and produce to the New Hampshire Food Bank.

“Before they had to fill the landfills, they wanted to get it out to those in need,” said Nancy Mellitt, director of development at the food bank.

Some of that food already should have made it into Granite State homes, said Mellitt, who didn’t have specific numbers on how much food was donated.

At the Elm Street Market Basket, shoppers still could buy baking potatoes and butternut squash, ground beef and gallons of water on Tuesday.

Carpenito said his store was receiving “very few” deliveries, though it did get a delivery of frozen foods from an outside warehouse Tuesday.

“I’m surprised they actually have a good amount of food left,” said shopper Fred Greene.

The Manchester resident shopped Sunday at Hannaford for meat and picked up what he could at Market Basket on Tuesday.

“I’d definitely like to see this get back to normal because it saves a lot of money and a lot of time,” Greene said.

mcousineau@unionleader.com



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