When it comes to grocery shopping in the U.S., many of us are familiar with the name Kroger. Founded in Cincinnati, Ohio during 1883, Kroger is now one of the largest grocery retailers in the country.
You may even have heard the jingle, “Let’s go Krogering,” for better or for worse. After World War II, the name Kroger also meant something else: Food for the hungry overseas.
Kroger employees Gene Tuttle and Pete Pittenger simply took an existing company program and expanded it. During the war, Kroger had been sending out packages to members of the armed services.
After the fighting had stopped, hunger became the enemy for the war-devastated nations. Harsh winters and severe drought converged on Europe not long after the Nazi menace had left. This made an already arduous reconstruction that much harder.
Kroger’s overseas service expanded to include food packages to civilians. At first, orders were placed at their downtown Cincinnati location. This was later expanded to 131 branch stores in the area.
At that time if you walked into Kroger to shop, there was a good chance you would see a flyer advertising the food packages. You could fill your order right there with the store manager and feed hungry people overseas. Chicago and Toledo Kroger stores joined Cincinnati in this effort.
By 1948 Kroger was sending out about 1,000 packages a month from its Cincinnati headquarters. Many of these went to Germany to help restore the former enemy. It was food for peace. Many other countries also benefited.
Pittenger described a letter he received from an English woman explaining how the powdered milk she received from Kroger was the first she had seen in months.
The Kroger Overseas Service, The Friendship Train, The Silent Guest plan, CARE packages, and other humanitarian endeavors were part of the post-war recovery. They gave citizens from all walks of life a chance to get involved and make a difference.
Innovative approaches to taking on hunger are needed as much today as they were then. There are nearly a billion people suffering from hunger worldwide right now. They may be in faraway lands. But a hungry person is a hungry person no matter where they reside. The American tradition is that hunger needs to be defeated no matter where it exists: at home and abroad.