Feeding America of Eastern Wisconsin (FAEW) has big plans to serve its neighbors in northeast Wisconsin and needed supply chain consulting support to make it happen. Their distribution center in Omro, Wisconsin is stretched to capacity, while the needs in their community have grown 61% in the past two years. They’ve launched a capital campaign to build a new distribution center.
A key feature of this new distribution center will be a clean room. This clean room will allow the food bank to repackage bulk food package donations into smaller portions. With the clean room, FAEW will be able to reduce waste and feed more hungry neighbors.
While an exciting opportunity, the new clean room is the equivalent of offering a new product to the community. FAEW understood that they needed to begin business planning to effectively bring this new resource to the community. But where to start?
FAEW identified the new clean room as one of two top priorities for which they could use the expertise of Hillshire Brands professionals. Patti Habeck, Northeast Wisconsin Regional Manager, traveled to Hillshire’s headquarters, where she met with Andy Callahan, President of Retail of Hillshire Brands, and his team of experts in marketing, facilities planning, and research. Working together, Andy and his team helped FAEW identify the priorities for the clean room. Callahan and his team focused heavily on utilizing teamwork, analysis and marketing to overcome the organization’s largest hurdle to success. The team helped with messaging and strategy to move beyond this hurdle to clear the way for the successful development of the new food bank and clean room.
“I didn’t have a full grasp on what I would gain from our first session with Hillshire professionals, but I was pleasantly surprised by how applicable the information I learned was. The team also helped us reframe some of the challenges we were facing into problems with clear solutions,” said Halbeck.
A few months later, a Hillshire team based in the New London, Wisconsin facility helped to identify clean room methods that could be applied to a food bank. Marcia Herzfeldt, in partnership with Greg Ehrle, recruited a team of employees with the skills to help FAEW develop its approach to clean rooms.
The Hillshire facility welcomed Habeck, Sue Zoladkiewicz – Resource Development Manager, and Jeff Kujawa – Operations Manager, to tour the Hillshire New London facility. During the tour, all team members donned overalls, hair covers, and gloves to explore Hillshire’s facility. Throughout the tour, the Hillshire team made recommendations for how FAEW might incorporate clean practices into their own operations, while keeping in mind the constraints of a smaller operation.
The Hillshire team made recommendations, based on FAEW’s clean room blueprint, for the materials, equipment, and vendors that might be able to help bring the clean room to life. The team also examined FAEW’s existing food safety program manual, to ensure that the organization had the most up-to-date information on food safety practices.
Hillshire employees demonstrated their expertise throughout the day. “The best thing about the day was the caliber of people we had around the table. We had a high-level, skilled team. They answered every question we asked, and did their homework,” said Habeck.
Additionally, Hillshire employees saw their own team members’ expertise in a new light.
“We work with people day in and day out, but it’s not often that we all sit down together and discuss something completely new. My team members brought in different perspectives from other roles and outside experiences to this project. They applied creative thinking and adaptability to thinking about how to different machinery might help FAEW achieve its goals,” said Michael Bodoh, Plant Engineer.
The FAEW team left the Hillshire facility armed with the best practices they need to create an effective clean room. They have recommendations for the right equipment they need, with recommendations regarding the functionality that was most appropriate to a nonprofit of their size. Additionally, the team provided them with recommendations for potential vendors once the time comes to create the new clean room.
The Hillshire team reviewed FAEW’s food safety guide in detail as well. They reviewed the policies and procedures and made recommendations about what’s necessary to bring a clean room to life, but also in the short term allow FAEW to make updates to their current food safety and handling processes.
While conducting their capital campaign, FAEW was able to use the best practice information immediately in funding proposals to make the case to potential supporters. Their proposals have an additional layer of credibility since the ideas were developed in conjunction with Hillshire Brands.