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Tyler Perry's coronavirus aid inspires Winn-Dixie owner to give free food

The company joins Starbucks, Taco Bell and other brands stepping up

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Southeastern Grocers, the parent company of BI-LO, Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie, is fighting against the coronavirus pandemic with free food. The company gave customers groceries this week at no cost during its dedicated shopping hour for health care workers, first responders and at-risk customers, according to a statement.

The company’s grocery brands, which are offering extended shopping hours on Mondays and Tuesdays at stores in seven states, surprised patrons with a $0 total at the register.

“Southeastern Grocers is dedicated to being there for the community when they need us the most, and we believe there is no better time than now to show acts of kindness,” President and CEO Anthony Hucker said.

“Our heroic health care professionals and first responders are on the front line every day as they work tirelessly to make our communities safer, and we want to do our part to thank them. We were inspired to pay it forward and hope to inspire others so we can continue to lift spirits during this difficult time. As a community, we are stronger together and will win together with kindness.”

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Southeastern Grocers’ move came after filmmaker Tyler Perry partnered with Winn-Dixie during the special hour to purchase groceries for customers at all 29 Louisiana stores.

The SEG Gives Foundation also donated $250,000 to Feeding America in March to help its network of food banks provide much-needed support to those facing food insecurity. As well, Southeastern Grocers is offering more than 5,000 positions to those who have been affected by reduced hours or a job loss as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown.

The United States lost roughly 701,000 jobs in March.

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Southeastern Grocers is not the only company helping out. Apollo Global Management Chief Executive Officer Leon Black’s family is contributing $20 million for essential food and supplies for health care workers in New York, one of the hardest-hit U.S. cities.

He spoke about the initiative on FOX Business Network.

“What we are trying to do is really help all 100,000, or so, health care workers in the five boroughs of New York City hospitals,” he told FOX Business' Maria Bartiromo. “This is from doctors to nurses to assistants to orderlies and to the janitors who are also putting in incredible time and exposing themselves.”

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He said he and his wife are working with a team including food service, facilities and uniform provider Aramark, to provide two bags of food and other essentials for workers and their families to pick up at hospitals. The initiative will run through the end of June.

Other big restaurant chains have been committed to helping their communities, too.

Through May 3, Starbucks will offer free coffee for first responders and health care workers. Sandwich shop Jersey Mike's Subs has committed to donating millions of subs as part of the company's Million Sub Sandwich initiative. And some chains, like Subway, will sell groceries including bread, meat, cheese and vegetables, as well as chips and cookies.

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