Monday, October 26, 2009

Local Grocery Stores: Dominick's

Last week, I began looking at a series of maps that show many of our local grocery store chains, in relation to poverty, "failing schools," known tutor/mentor programs, and highways.

My most recent blog in the series focused on Whole Foods and showed how, even though they have few stores in high-poverty neighborhoods, they have done a lot to help non profit organizations like tutor/mentor programs.

(Read about Whole Foods' "community citizenship" strategy and how they have supported Tutor/Mentor Connection and Mapping For Justice in our mission.)

But Whole Foods (click on the map above and to the right to expand it) operates in only a few locations, and while they seem pretty good at pushing support (dollars, volunteers, awareness) from customers of relative affluence toward neighborhoods in need, perhaps other chains have store locations that operate in the higher-poverty neighborhoods themselves, and are in positions to generate support from within the community.

I chose to look at the locations of all Dominick's (Safeway) stores, because I see a lot of those around town.

(Click on map to see higher-resolution version)

In keeping with the theme established last week, what is Dominick's strength in helping "cultivate young minds"? (And of course by this I mean, how can they help us in our strategies to create new tutor/mentor program options for students, while improving support for the 240+ existing programs we know about?)

Like Whole Foods, Dominick's has a corporate mission that stresses "responsibility to become involved and to help build better, stronger communities." They mention that, "As part of our ongoing commitment to education, we also support numerous school scholarship funds and youth development foundations, and we sponsor a broad range of after-school and physical education activities."

The timing is right for an alliance among stores who espouse these values and Tutor/Mentor Connection. Many politicians and media leaders in the weeks after the Derrion Albert murder are calling for an increase in mentoring programs. (You haven't forgotten that story already, have you?)

Through support from a corporate office like Dominick's, and with their large army of local store managers, we can work together to make this happen!

Because you'll notice that Dominick's has many stores in Chicago - many more than Whole Foods at least. A handful of them even operate within - or at least in closer proximity - to high-poverty neighborhoods (darker colors on the map represent increasing ranges of families living in poverty). Many of these neighborhoods show high concentrations of "poorly performing schools." Both of these conditions are indicators that there are probably students living there who might need help with homework (tutoring), and potentially with making life decisions that are tied to preparing for college and careers (mentoring).

In other words, Dominick's might be in a slightly better position in some ways than Whole Foods, to generate support (dollars, volunteers, awareness) locally for neighboring programs.

Local store managers are in perfect positions to run fundraisers (like Whole Foods' One Dime at a Time program) that can be donated to local programs or to Tutor/Mentor Connection. (We're all non profits looking for a little rent money.)

Local store managers are also in position to raise awareness via community message kiosks or word of mouth.

Perhaps they can even take the lead from another community center, Hyde Park Hair Salon, and hang the Dominick's map I made for this posting in their local store locations, along with information for shoppers/parents who want to enroll their children... or perhaps volunteer or donate to programs in their shared community.

The sheer number of local stores raises the possibility that individual managers can ally with other Dominick's locations to magnify their efforts as well. The map shows that this can happen either in communities of need, or from stores that serve the relatively affluent periphery.

If Whole Foods was able to raise $5000 from four locations in a few days (see my last blog), just think what Dominick's can do!

What's more exciting is that, unlike Whole Foods, whose corporate offices operate from outside of Illinois, Dominick's has a headquarters in the Western Suburbs, a quick commute from Chicago and the Chicago Public Schools. Certainly they have a more intimate "responsibility to become involved and to help build better, stronger communities" in Chicago.

Political and media leaders are talking about more and better mentoring programs in the fights against local poverty and crime.

Dominick's is in a position of strength to take a lead in making it happen.

To date, Dominick's has donated a $50 gift card to our fundraising and strategy efforts this year. I'm not sure what they have contributed to other mentor-to-career programs, but I'm hopeful that together, we can do even more.

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