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The Unsung Hurricane Heroes: H-E-B and Publix

By Robin Mather

As Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast on Friday, August 25, an employee of the Vintage Park H-E-B store in northwest Houston looked out the rear of the store and saw a funnel cloud. Inside the store, the other employees scurried for cover in the still-open store. No one was injured, but the store stayed open after the tornado danger had passed.

And when Hurricane Irma struck Florida’s southwestern coast, Publix’s emergency response team watched closely. They’d been eyeing this storm, as they do every storm, trying to maintain the delicate balance of store associates’ need to prepare their own homes and their families against their customers’ need to stock up and get home safely.

Supermarkets, as it turns out, may be the unsung heroes of natural disaster. Two chains in particular – H-E-B and Publix – stay open as long as possible before a hurricane hits, so their customers can stock up on much-needed supplies, especially if they’re going to shelter in place. And they reopen – if they closed at all – the very minute it’s possible to do so, because they know their customers will need to restock the milk, the ice, the bottle water, the baby formula after the worst of the emergency has passed and recovery begins.

“In a way, we’re first responders,” says Maria Brous, a Publix spokesman who’s based in Lakeland, Florida. “We see it as part of our mission to help our communities in so many ways. For people to have a smile and a warm cup of coffee … to use the phone charging stations we had set up … just all that stuff that we don’t think about in that kind of situation.”

In Houston, H-E-B Steps Up
Kimberly Weiberg lives near that Vintage Park H-E-B, and shops there regularly. She’s lived in Houston for going on 16 years, and says the store “always has a good produce selection, friendly people, and wonderful sampling, especially on the weekend. They have a nice organic section, and you can grind your own peanut butter there.”

While Weiberg purchases some items at stores closer to her home in Norchester, a Houston suburb, she goes to H-E-B for one thing in particular: “H-E-B is where I purchase meats because I feel more comfortable about the quality, and they do have good prices on meat.”

Weiberg and her family left town the day before Harvey hit, headed first to Dallas and then back to family in Missouri. “I stocked up before we left, though, so when we returned, I was able to help neighbors through the outreach program of my church, which is called Mercy Ministry.”

It was while assembling packages of emergency aid after the storm had passed that Weiberg’s friendly feelings toward H-E-B skyrocketed.

“We’re putting together these packages for Mercy Ministry, and up comes a tractor-trailer full of paper products – mostly toilet paper – and somebody said, ‘That’s from H-E-B.’ And then I learned about H-E-B’s $5 million donation to J.J. Watt’s (tight end for the Houston Texans) hurricane relief fund. It’s so cool to see people doing that.”

H-E-B’s concern for its community continues, she says. “I’ve seen posters about H-E-B giving free tetanus shots,” she reports. “But in terms of charity, everyone is not wanting to take because they think someone else needs it worse.”

Kelly Akey, also of Norchester, sheltered in place during the storm, and shopped at the H-E-B the night before Harvey made landfall. “I didn’t go to that H-E-B for a little while after the storm because the parking lot was flooded, as were the streets from my house to H-E-B, so I’m not really sure when they re-opened,” she says. The employee who spotted the tornado told her about it on her next visit to the store after the storm.

In Florida, Publix Hopes to Help
Publix’s spokesman Brous says the company was eager to send aid to hard-hit Houston after Harvey. “We sent five trailers of water,” she says, “and H-E-B was so gracious that, just a few days after that, they sent 10 trailers to us – seven trailers of water, two of ice, and one of assorted food, cleaning supplies and baby needs.”

The company and its customers have always been generous, she says. “Right after Harvey hit Texas, we opened a register campaign where customers could make a donation to the Red Cross for Texans. In less than five days, we raised $2.5 million for hurricane relief, and Publix Super Market Charities, our non-profit, also donated an additional $250,000 to that effort.”
Another register campaign was begun right after Hurricane Irma, Brous says, and that one is still on-going. “But Publix Charities has donated $1 million to the Red Cross and the United Way to help the recovery process.”

Publix, which is headquartered in Florida, has a lot of experience with hurricanes, Brous says. “Back in 2004, we had four hurricanes: Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. After that, we invested in generators for our stores and now, more than 700 stores have them.”

Harvey’s effect on Houston may have encouraged Publix customers to prepare for Irma, Brous says. “We saw our customers preparing earlier, getting to the store and stocking up before the storm.”

In Irma’s aftermath, she says, “we had some water damage for some stores, but no significant issues. We did have more than 400 stores on auxiliary power. All of our stores have reopened, and now we’re helping our neighbors in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.”

But hurricane season has been tough on all grocery stores, she says. “We have an amazing warehouse and logistics team. Those teams literally worked around the clock to get bottled water, batteries, bread, diapers and formula to our stores, and those items are all still in high demand.”

At the heart of Publix’s generosity is the company’s “deeply personal relationship with our customers and our communities,” Brous says. “It’s all about the people and the bonds we make with our customers. The one thing that can’t be replicated is our people and their desire to serve.”

Foster Farms Donates Turkey to Serve 140,000 Holiday Meals in Wildfire Country

As communities throughout Northern California recover from multiple wildfires, Foster Farms is delivering more than 10 truckloads of holiday turkey to food banks and community groups in California, Oregon and Washington. In total, Foster Farms will donate 126,000 pounds of turkey this holiday season, enough to serve more than 140,000 individual meals.

While the holiday donations are an annual tradition for Foster Farms, this season the family-owned company is making a special effort to help its neighbors displaced by the Northern California wildfires with a donation of $100,000  and 40,000 pounds of poultry products to Redwood Empire Food Bank in Santa Rosa. Foster Farms hopes its donations will encourage other businesses, organizations and community members to support local food banks.

Millions of West Coast families are affected by food insecurity. In California and the Pacific Northwest, more than one in eight households do not have enough to eat. Food banks cite protein as one of the most-needed foods, and Foster Farms is working to provide greater access to naturally lean protein through turkey and chicken donations.

“Foster Farms has become the company it is today because of the loyalty of millions of West Coast families. We recognize that in times of adversity, we have a responsibility to step forward and return that support in kind,” said Foster Farms CEO Laura Flanagan.

The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is one of many West Coast food banks benefitting from this year’s turkey donations. Executive Director Paul Ash welcomed a delivery of 14,400 pounds of whole turkeys for local distribution. “Protein is one of the most important donations for the food bank because it is a nutritional staple for every wholesome meal. We are grateful for Foster Farms’ generous turkey donation, once again this year, which will help ensure that the Bay Area families we serve can enjoy the tradition of a satisfying Thanksgiving meal.”

Food banks and hunger relief organizations benefiting from Foster Farms’ donations this year are:

Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank

Donate Here

Northwest Harvest Food Bank


Donate Here

Oregon Food Bank Network


Donate Here

Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services

Donate Here

San Francisco City Impact

Donate Here

Second Harvest Food Bank

San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties

Donate Here

Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County

Donate Here

SF-Marin Food Bank                                       

Donate Here

Redwood Empire Food Bank

Santa Rosa

Donate Here

United Samaritans Foundation


Donate Here

In December, Foster Farms will continue its hunger relief efforts as the title sponsor of the Foster Farms Bowl, partnering with Bay Area food banks to raise awareness of local hunger needs. Foster Farms Bowl donations will include thousands of pounds of chicken to San Francisco charities GLIDE and St. Anthony’s for Christmas meals, and for every Foster Farms Bowl ticket purchased, one meal will be donated to local hunger relief organizations. Tickets for the game, which will be played on December 27 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, are available at

La Piana Balsamic Vinegars Now Available in Ohio at Heinen’s Locations

Italian Foods Corporation’s line of three imported La Piana® balsamic vinegars of Modena now are available in northeast Ohio at Heinen’s Grocery Store locations.

ItalianFoodsBalsamicSilverWhiteHeinen’s is carrying the La Piana Bronze Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, La Piana Silver Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, and Gold Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena through Zidian Distribution of Youngstown, Ohio, according to Francesca Lapiana-Krause, Italian Foods General Manager.

The vinegars are made from the juice of Trebbiano grapes grown in the Modena region, which produce a rich, sweet and pleasantly acidic balsamic vinegar whose intense, but well-rounded flavor is a hallmark of the region, Lapiana-Krause said. La Piana Bronze Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena has a density of 1.18 and a sugar level of 400 to 430 grams per liter, the Silver Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena has a density of 1.25 and sugar from 540 to 570 grams, and the Gold balsamic vinegar has a density of 1.32 with sugar at 750 grams.

Suggested retail prices of the vinegars, which come in 8.4-ounce decorative bottles, are $16.47 for the Bronze, $22.65 for the Silver and $36.04 for the Gold. Italian Foods Corporation also carries a line of Romantica vinegars. More information about Italian Foods Corporation is available online at or by calling 1.888.516.7262.

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