Every year, millions of Thanksgiving meals travel the U.S. arrive at countless homes, yet as the season of giving begins, thousands of Americans are still left unable to provide food for themselves or their families.
Fortunately, organizations like the Greater Cleveland Food Bank exist to provide a hand ... and a meal. A recent Crain's Cleveland Business Journal report reveals the food bank likely distributes 14,000 meals, including 7,000 Turkeys, to those in need throughout the region.
Recently, Supply Chain Dive spoke with Dwayne Brake, VP of Operations at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, to highlight the organization's efforts and learn about the logistics challenges they face in feeding the hungry.
Can you describe what your organization does?
Dwayne Brake: We provide emergency food for over 800 member agencies throughout a six county area, including Ashtabula, Ashland, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Richland, and Lake Counties. We also incorporate a children's initiative, a focus on seniors, and provide wraparound services such as housing, food and medical options.
What are the Food Bank’s plans for Thanksgiving?
Brake: We're actually closed on Thanksgiving. All our work is done behind the scenes in advance of the holiday, when our member agencies are ramping up and running at high distribution peaks to prep for the increased visits to local pantries.
14,000 — that’s a lot of meals to serve. Can you walk us through the logistics process? Where do you get the food from?
Brake: Much of our food is donated from both local and national retailers and manufacturers. We also purchase perishables to supplement the types of products received by donors. The USDA contributes as well.
What systems do you use to coordinate the whole process, and what are some of the challenges you face?
Brake: Our logistics software, Appian, is very good. It does the inside work. However, this being northeastern Ohio, we tend to run into challenges with the weather. We work hard to maintain high service levels, in that if we promise a delivery, we make that delivery, regardless. The weather doesn't always make that easy, especially in some of our outlying service areas.
Is there any way manufacturers and logistics providers can help you or similar organizations’ efforts?
Brake: We do a good job of stretching dollars through bulk purchasing, but what we'd like to explore would be the inclusion of 3PL (third party logistics provider). That would allow us to offer deliveries to farther, and more remote locations, where we know the need exists. With the addition of a 3PL, we can keep our efficiencies going without incurring higher operating costs. We would love to see some support from that direction.