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Using Effective Supply Chain Management to End Hunger

By Claire Bloom, CIRM |   2014 | 9 | 4

How do you feed the 34 million hungry children in America? One school at a time—with simple supply chain management and capable volunteers.

The End 68 Hours of Hunger project began in Dover, New Hampshire, in 2011 with just 19 students in three schools. These children depended on school meals during the week, but did not have enough food at home over the weekends. Today, the initiative has grown to feed 800 children in 18 school districts in New England and California. It is a volunteer-run program that allocates 100 percent of donations received toward the purchase of food. 

The End 68 Hours of Hunger program operates much like a traditional supply chain. The school districts provide the demand, telling program coordinators how many students need assistance. The results are totaled at each school and posted. Then, supply chain professional volunteers—including former APICS president Keith Launchbury, CFPIM, CIRM, CSCP—source, buy, receive, inspect, and store food to give to the children in need. These production coordinators ensure that there is always food in the bins for the production teams to pick and pack according to a bill of materials. Production team captains set their own packing times with teams of about 4–12 people from their organizations.

The food comes from two sources: Roughly 75 percent is purchased with donated funds; the remaining 25 percent comes from local donors who drop off goods at specified locations. Here, there is some labor cost involved, as each donated item must be carefully inspected for expiration date, tampering, and suitability for the children in the program. Items that are not appropriate for End 68 Hours of Hunger are donated to a local food pantry. Finally, bags are delivered to the schools. The program costs about $10 per week per student. The goal also is to leave the child with some food to share or snack on during the school week.

There was an instant response to the program upon its launch. Teachers immediately noticed that students who received food to take home on Friday were coming in ready to learn on Monday. They were more alert, more focused, and experienced fewer behavioral issues during class.

Reinforced by this success, End 68 Hours of Hunger grew quickly. But first, it was necessary to find funding partners to help with expenses. Newmarket International, the Walmart Foundation, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, the Dover Teachers’ Union, and many more supporters soon joined the effort. More partners came on board from companies including Bank of America, the Dover Democrats, Newmarket International, and St. John’s United Methodist Church, to help pack and deliver the food.

A self-storage company, Atlantic Mini-Storage, also donated a 10-by-30-foot storage unit to the program. One day, while purchasing food at Walmart to fill the storage bins, a cashier asked what the basketful of peanut butter was for. Upon hearing about the program, a grocery manager offered to have store employees pick and pack orders and call when supplies became ready. This became a great time-saver and process improvement.

As more and more schools came on board, Launchbury was tasked with creating a material requirements planning system in Excel to identify exactly how much of each food item was needed based on how many items came per package. He also rounded the data to case quantities to avoid having to purchase, load, transport, and unload individual units.

It’s extremely important to ensure that food arrives for children in the program every week. During its three years of operation, End 68 Hours of Hunger has delivered a consistently high level of customer service. Snow storms, school closures, and late supplier deliveries have created some obstacles; however, effective supply chain management is helping reduce and respond to such risk. Interestingly, a group of APICS-certified professionals have stepped up to run the Vacaville, California, operation.

A recent spot on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams resulted in a huge surge of interest in the initiative from an additional 20 communities in 11 states. Program leaders aim to expand dramatically over the next year, coming ever closer to their vision of ending childhood hunger in America—one school at a time.

Claire Bloom, CIRM, is a retired United States Navy Lieutenant Commander and founder and director of End 68 Hours of Hunger. She may be contacted at end68hoursofhunger@gmail.com.

To learn more about End 68 Hours of Hunger, visit end68hoursofhunger.org.

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