April 29, 2022 – As Diversity Month comes to an end in the U.S. and kicks off in May in Europe, we took this time to learn more about how our local brands support people living with a neurodiverse diagnosis. From grocery shopping training, raising awareness to providing on-the-job experience – our brands are committed to ensuring everyone can reach their full potential regardless of their physical, intellectual, and sensory strengths and challenges.
Ahold Delhaize and our great local brands are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion with ongoing efforts to create a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. It is a topic that is part of the Ahold Delhaize DNA and comes to life in our values of courage, integrity, and care.
Hannaford supports young people living with a neurodiverse diagnosis by encouraging independent living and job readiness skills. In order to provide a real-life experience in grocery shopping, Hannaford Supermarkets donated grocery shelving and a checkout station, complete with conveyor belt and bagging area to the Maine Behavioral Healthcare’s Glickman Lauder Center of Excellence in Autism and Developmental Disorders (GLCOE).
The dedicated grocery training area is a 28,000 square foot innovative facility that opened in August 2021. In addition to outpatient treatment for all ages, the center includes a life-skills room with a grocery shopping station as well as special chairs for practice with getting haircuts, dental care and health care.
“These are more than just nice activities – if a person is unable to do these things it can result in serious problems, such as feeling overwhelmed in the grocery checkout line, a dentist’s chair, or in a doctor’s office. We are thrilled to have this resource to provide practice in these key life experiences,” said Dr. Matthew Siegel, vice president of medical affairs for autism and developmental disorders
“Going to the grocery store is being part of the community, so we are proud to partner with the Glickman Lauder Center (GLCOE) in helping neurodiverse members of our community develop new skills related to the shopping experience,” said Eric Blom, Hannaford spokesman. “We are so thankful for the work being done at the Center every day to help people with autism and developmental disorders lead full, rich lives.”
Hannaford also supports associate initiatives such as Chris Heel's annual autism fundraiser. Chris started a 5K walk to benefit the Autism Society of Maine (ASM) when he was high school student. What started off as a senior year project has now turned into an annual event on Mount Desert Island. Since Chris started his "senior project", he has raised over $30,000 to help support nonprofits including the ASM.
Stop & Shop
Stop & Shop honored Autism Awareness Month and promoted acceptance for the condition that occurs in one out of every 44 children in the U.S. SVP Human Resources, Maria Silvestri, wrote a personal message to associates, sharing some of her experience as a grandmother of a neurodiverse child who is living with an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis, and invited associates to virtual events during the month, presented by the United Nations and the NIH (National Institute of Mental Health), and the OARC (Office of Autism Research Coordination), to increase their own awareness, acceptance and inclusion.
The Urban Garden project, developed by CONIL Before & After-school Center for children living with autism, is supported by Mega Image through their “Project of Today for Tomorrow” 2021 program. On April 5, children living with a disability had the opportunity to plant flowers, vegetables and fruits in an urban garden with the help of teachers and Mega Image representatives. The objective is to support and promote healthy eating for children, and to also provide learning and recreative activities in a therapeutic way.
As Diversity Month is recognized during May in Europe, Mega Image will also raise awareness of diversity and inclusion via its strong involvement in a number of initiatives. This includes helping displaced Ukrainian people integrate into life in Romania by welcoming them into Mega Image’s community and providing employment opportunities in its warehouses, headquarters or 900+ stores. Moreover, associates are offered the opportunity to support social causes, through Mega Image’s internal volunteering program, 12 Acts of kindness.
Mega Image will also continue its online series of events, Community Talks, with a new edition focused on “Pandemic vs War: The impact of social context on women”. Ileana Alexandru, HR VP; representatives of She is Mom digital platform; and a psychologist will discuss the topic. Furthermore, Mega Image will support the Lead Network community by joining its “Breaking the Biases” event, where Ileana Alexandru, HR VP, will join as a guest speaker.
The Giant Company
As part of Diversity Month in the U.S. The GIANT Company honored Autism acceptance by focusing on their commitment to building a culture of acceptance and inclusion. This month and every month, The GIANT Company strives to break down all physical, intellectual, and sensory barriers so that all people, including individuals with autism, can reach their fullest potential, regardless of their unique strengths and challenges.
Throughout April, team members were encouraged to wear Autism Acceptance pins provided by The GIANT Company to foster inclusion and were also encouraged to wear blue on World Autism Awareness Day. Stories and experiences of team members with autism were also shared throughout the month and vendor partner Popcorn for the People was recognized for its efforts to create meaningful employment for individuals with Autism and other spectrum diagnoses. The GIANT Company’s DE&I Team and BARRIER FREE Business Resource Group also hosted a virtual event for team members called “From Awareness to Acceptance” to build a better understanding and embrace everyone's differences.
Additionally, The GIANT Company also supported community events with the shared vision of celebrating diversity, building equity and promoting inclusion, including the local YWCA Race Against Racism and 21-Day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge, Race for Resources for Autism Cares Foundation of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the Kinney Walk/Run for Autism, and an Autism Awareness Luncheon in Philadelphia.
Giant Food recognizes and celebrates neurodiversity in various ways, and it is committed to breaking down barriers to allow all people to succeed. Below are just some examples on how Giant Food is committed to this.
Giant Food stores partner with their local schools to provide “on-the-job” experience with the assistance of a job coach to students with disabilities. Students are hired and paid for several hours each week learning general tasks that help them build customer service and teamwork skills that are useful for any future career of their choice. Through these programs Giant Food has hired many associates with disabilities, creating a better diverse and inclusive company culture.
For many years, Giant Food has been a sponsor of the Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities. This is an independent, non-profit advocacy organization focused on improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities and their families in the District of Columbia and beyond. In 2021, Giant Food sponsored the Quality Trust “Back Together Luncheon,” an opportunity for their staff, supporters, and stakeholders and specifically the people with developmental disabilities they support; who have said they are experiencing depression as they have had to isolate for over a year and a half and want to be with people.
During Autism Acceptance month throughout April, Giant Food associates also showed their support and acceptance of the Autism community by wearing red while working in stores, distribution centers, delivery centers and the office.
Honoring Diversity Month, Delhaize Serbia is spotlighting its collaboration with the Creative and Educational Center (CEC), an organization focused on the inclusion of persons living with a mental or intellectual disability through a range of programs, initiatives and partnerships. These initiatives allow people living with a neurodiverse diagnosis to improve their quality of life, provide preparation for an independent life, social inclusion, future employment, as well as raising awareness to the general population and breaking prejudice.
One of the most successful initiatives between CEC and Delhaize Serbia is its work-ready program. Participants of the program learn about store processes and gain experience across the stores in Belgrade, three times a week for one hour. This program has been successful not just for enhancing inclusion, but for also building awareness and a better understanding of neurodiverse diagnoses among associates and customers. This year, the program will be renewed for a 10th time and soon a new group of participants will take part in the program across Delhaize Serbia stores.