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Food Bank for the Heartland, Nebraska, Iowa

"The group's passion and dedication prompt community members to volunteer and get involved."

Skills-Based Service Sets a Path for Greater Impact in the Heartland

Food Bank for the Heartland is the largest food bank in Nebraska and Iowa, encompassing 93 counties in a two-state region. The food bank distributed 15.8 million pounds of food and provided the equivalent of approximately 13.2 million meals in FY14. The food bank’s network of agency partners includes more than 285 food pantries, emergency shelters, after-school programs, senior housing sites and rehabilitation centers in the community.

Today in Nebraska and western Iowa, 1 in 5, or 88,000, children struggle with hunger. In addition, about 21,900 different people in Food Bank for the Heartland’s service area receive emergency food assistance in any given week. This means that not only does the Food Bank for the Heartland have to offer a wide range of food options to assist clients with their dietary needs, but it must also keep pace with an ever-growing demand for key items.

With the food bank providing services to a rather large geography, it is no surprise that meat is their most popular and expensive item. The food bank works hard annually to reach as many people as possible with food assistance; however, limited freezer capacity and low inventory turnovers were making it challenging to meet food demands, especially for meat products. Recognizing the need for a closer look at how the food bank processed meats through its warehouse, ConAgra Foods’ Performance System Team offered to facilitate a process improvement session to help the food bank identify ways to improve planning and streamline the handling process.

A team of leaders from the Food Bank for the Heartland, St. Martin Detorres, Heart Ministry Center, Heartland Hope Mission and Project Hope were gathered to leverage a business method called Value-Stream Mapping, where the current state of a series of activities for a product or service is analyzed to design a future state that will enhance the process from the beginning through to the customer—in this case, families in Nebraska and Iowa. Working closely with Dave Love, Director of Distribution for Food Bank for the Heartland, two ConAgra Foods employees—Craig Andrews, Lean Supply Chain Director, and Ken Ng, Lean Supply Chain Specialist—dedicated more than 32 hours to help guide the team through the mapping process and generate a set of recommendations and improvement opportunities.

As of June 2014, the Food Bank for the Heartland has reported and continues to work on:

  • Decreasing the time it takes to put away meat products from 8 hours to less than 60 minutes in most cases
  • Improving inventory turnovers from 17 to 26, meaning more meat can be received, allocated and distributed in a more equitable fashion, minimizing hoarding and food waste
  • Reducing agency lead time for meat requests from 22 days to an average of 7 to 10 days

Staff from the food bank were so intrigued by the Value-Stream Mapping method that they intend to share it with their colleagues and apply the practice to other areas of Food Bank for the Heartland’s operations.

It is the passion and commitment of employees like Craig and Ken that demonstrate how skills-based service can be a driving force for good in our community. Over the next few years, ConAgra Foods and the ConAgra Foods Foundation will be working together to identify more opportunities like this to leverage our employees’ skills and talents to support the growth and development of nonprofit organizations across the country.

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