We all know the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” However, for many of our neighbors, it’s easier said than done. According to some recent surveys, most of you reading this eat about 40% more fresh produce than the segment of the population that is served by our nation’s food banks. In Texas, according to the recently released Feeding America Map the Meal Gap data, 17.6% percent of the overall state population struggled to avoid hunger in 2013, including nearly two million children. Surprisingly, in many cases the problem is not the availability of food -, it is a supply chain problem.
Through a CSCMP friend at the Houston Food Bank, I recently started a project with Feeding Texas, a network of the 21 food banks serving the state, to increase the amount of fresh produce we can deliver per dollar spent. Just like in many private sector companies that have grown in size over time, each Feeding Texas member food bank operates independently. Across the food banks resources are tough to come by and tend to be used in the day-to-day operations to bring in food and get it out the door to clients. Thus, they have not yet adopted many of the current best practices in supply chain management.
Even though there is more fresh produce available than they can use at any given time, many of the key issues that Feeding Texas members face, like
- Lack of transportation capacity to move produce when it is offered
- The high cost of transportation that consumes limited budget funds and restricts the amount of produce that can be obtained
- Purchase of Out-of-State produce when produce is available in Texas
are typical of an organization that haven’t implemented modern network design, supply/demand planning and transportation planning processes.
We are currently collecting data to complete a more extensive review of the total Feeding Texas supply chain to identify opportunities to move more fresh produce at a lower cost. We are also engaging with key industry contacts and donors to help us understand whether we can adopt some of their best practices in the movement of fruits and vegetables. I have to say that I have been very gratified at the number of times I’ve called a supply chain colleague to ask for their help on this project. In almost all cases, the response has been an unhesitating, “What can I do to help?”
I’ll keep posting our updates as we hit new milestones in our project. In the meantime, I would ask you to reach out to the food bank in your neighborhood and ask if your supply chain expertise can be put to good use.