Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is launching what it is calling its "Shop for Schools" program.
Under the program, which is similar to many offered by other U.S. supermarket chains in its market regions, Fresh & Easy will donate $1 for every $20 a customer spends at a Fresh & Easy grocery and fresh foods market from February 1, 2009 -to- March 31, 2009, to a participating school the customer designates.
Fresh & Easy says it has sent registration forms to every qualifying primary school within a three-mile radius of all of its stores in Southern California, Southern Nevada and in the Phoenix, Arizona Metropolitan region. The schools have until January 23, 2009 to register with Tesco's Fresh & Easy to participate in the program.
Fresh & Easy says it created the program, which starts on February 1 of next year, because the grocer wants to be a good neighbor in the communities where it has its stores. On its Web site notice about the program, Fresh & Easy says: "We know how important schools are to our neighborhoods and how critical fundraising is to provide your schools with needed resources. So we created 'Shop for Schools' to help."
The supermarket industry in the Western U.S. has over the years become a significant source of providing extra funding via donations for special programs for school districts.
For example, most of the major supermarket chains and many independents in California, Nevada and Arizona participate in the "Apple in Schools" program, in which they donate a certain percentage of money, based on customer purchases similar to the new Fresh & Easy program, to be used to provide Apple computers to schools for no charge.
Among those chains and independents in California, Nevada and Arizona include: Safeway Stores, Inc., Ralphs, Stater Bros. Albertsons, Bashas, Save Mart, Raley's and many others.
Additionally, numerous chains and independents conduct various regular promotions such as "script," gift card and others in which they add contributions to customer purchases, the proceeds going as cash donations to local schools. Modesto, California-based Save Mart, which operates about 250 stores throughout Northern and Central California, is one of the top supermarket chain's in raising money for schools, for example. It operates various different programs throughout the year designed to raise money for the schools in its market areas, including making substantial corporate donations to numerous schools.
Food manufacturers also run programs to assist schools. For example, for decades the Campbell Soup Company has run a program in which consumers collect the labels off its famous red and white line of condensed soup, turn the labels into Campbell's, and in return the company donates a certain amount of money per-label-turned-in (up to a limit) to schools.
Part of the reason behind the supermarket industry getting involved in raising money for schools has to do with the local nature of how K-through-12 education is funded and run in the U.S.
The schools are run locally rather than by the federal government, as is the case in many other western democracies. It's often referred to as "home rule." Community residents elect a school board, and the board hires the school administrators and makes policy, similar to how a corporate board of directors operate, at least in concept.
Schools in the U.S. also are funded primarily by local tax dollars. And the portion of money the federal government gives to schools is distributed by the states to the county level, which then is distributed to local school districts.
Over the last about 30 years, money for extra curricular programs at K-through-12 schools in the U.S. has been steadily reduced, especially for programs like art and music and for things like field trips. Along with this funding reduction, the overall funding hasn't kept up with all the new technologies like computers and Internet connections available to educators and schools. In fact, money for basic school supplies is barely available as well, which is why it's not uncommon to see teachers often spending their own money to purchase needed classroom supplies.
This is why programs like those conducted by food retailers and others -- fund raisers -- are so important and unfortunately needed by the schools.
We tip our cyber hat to Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market for creating its "Shop for Schools" program and following the lead of the many retailers here before them who continue to raise money for schools. We believe retail promotions like Fresh & Easy's "Shop for Schools" that offer the grocer an opportunity to increase sales while at the same time give something back to communities are win-wins.
[Editor's Note: one thing we do at about this time each year is to make as much of a contribution as we can afford to one or more local schools. The end of the year, and before the start of a new one, seems a good time to do so -- thinking of new beginnings in terms of the new year reminds us of the new beginnings a good education can provide for a child. Although this is a tough year for donations, we encourage Fresh & Easy Buzz readers to join us in making whatever donation you can ($10 is even great) to your local schools.]