NJ Food Council Night of Distinction 2024
General Business

NJ Food Council Honors 3 Industry Leaders at Annual ‘Night of Distinction’

The New Jersey Food Council (NJFC) honored leaders in the industry during its annual “Night of Distinction” reception.

The event drew more than 500 guests, including prominent food industry executives across the region. Moreover, Anthony Calandra of Calandra’s Bakery of Newark spearheaded a drive to bring in scholarship donations to benefit the NJFC Educational Development Scholarship Program during the Silent Auction. His donations alone of signature sporting events tickets helped NJFC raise over $30,000 to support students striving for an education in the food industry.

“During the Night of Distinction, we celebrate our members who volunteer their time and talent to ensure our mutual success and advance our mission,” said NJFC President & CEO Linda Doherty. “The attendance and ticket sales were overwhelming; it demonstrates the strength and promise the industry holds for the New Jersey Food Council and we are grateful for that undeniable support.”

Leftover food from the event was donated to Table to Table, a food rescue organization located in Saddle Brook.

“This event truly represents the ‘who’s who’ of the New Jersey grocery industry, as we come together, to celebrate and pay tribute to our industry leaders who have helped us strive to be ‘the best in class’ food trade association in the country, all because of your support,” said Nick Brown of Kraft Heinz, who served as Master of Ceremonies.

“We celebrate three industry leaders who have made a meaningful contribution to advance the mission of the Food Council, have achieved significant grocery industry success, and have a history of civic service within the New Jersey food community,” he added.

The honorees were: Neil Greenstein of Brookdale ShopRite and ShopRite of Newark, Stew Leonard, Jr. of Stew Leonard’s and Samer Rahman of Allegiance Retail Services.

Neil Greenstein, a third-generation grocer, is proud of his heritage in the industry. His grandparents opened the family’s first supermarket in Bloomfield in 1948 and joined the Wakefern cooperative in 1952. His family’s two ShopRite stores employ more than 800 people and he calls his stores “the supermarkets with a heart.”

Newark leaders credit Greenstein with being a community partner, giving of his time and resources to become an integral part of the city and the redevelopment of Newark. This includes his involvement with organizations like The Greater Newark Conservancy, the Boys and Girls Club of Newark and NJPAC.

Greenstein also supports the Foley Field Foundation, Bloomfield Educational Foundation, and The Human Needs Food Pantry, as well as a supporter of ShopRite Partners In Caring, Wakefern Food Corp.’s signature hunger-fighting initiative that helps organizations fighting food insecurity. Greenstein is an officer on the Board of Wakefern Food Corp., the National Grocers Association and sits on the Board of The Kessler Foundation.

Stew Leonard, Jr. is president & CEO of Stew Leonard’s, a family-owned farm fresh food retailer recognized as one of Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” for 10 consecutive years.

He took over as president and CEO in 1991 and grew the company from one retail food store in Norwalk, CT to seven stores across Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, as well as eight family-owned wine stores. Stew Leonard’s welcomes more than 20 million customers a year, employs more than 2,500 team members and has annual sales exceeding $550 million.

Stew Leonard’s has been dubbed “The Disneyland of Dairy Stores” by The New York Times for its in-store entertainment and listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having “the greatest sales per unit area of any single food store in the United States.” The Leonard family has also been recognized for building a successful, multi-generational family business.

Samer Rahman is vice president and Chief Merchandising Officer at Allegiance Retail Services. He joined the company in 2013, initially as the Director of Meat & Seafood and moved up to Vice President of Perishables and Vice President of Center Store.

“My venture into the Grocery Retail Sector began in 1988, marking a substantial 35-year career filled with diverse experiences,” Rahman said. “My extensive management roles span both independent supermarket retail and major corporate supermarket chains, including nearly two decades of dedicated service at Pathmark and A&P. These experiences have equipped me with a deep understanding of the industry and a commitment to driving excellence in merchandising and leadership.”

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