The Supply Chain
and How It Can Help
End Hunger in the U.S.
There are many challenges to distributing goods donated by the food and grocery industry to
food banks around the U.S., says Nick Blawat, vice president of supply chain at Feeding America.
And your task isn’t made any easier when the food industry tightens its own supply chain.
Feeding America is a network 205 food banks with a rather tall order
as its mission: ending hunger in the United States. In its efforts to do
that, it distributes about 2. 5 billion pounds of food every year, and the
number of persons dependent on it is growing. A USDA study tallied
36 million “food-insecure” Americans in 2007, says Blawat, but by
2008 that figure had increased to 49 million.
The recent economic crisis has done nothing to help things. It’s
made donations harder to come by, Blawat says. “It’s pretty stag-
gering what’s happened, and it’s pretty unprecedented.”
But initiatives in the private sector to improve supply chain
efficiency have haunted Feeding America as well. Traditionally,
the bulk of the donations received by Blawat’s organization
comprised food close to code, mislabeled or which couldn’t go
into regular channels for some other reasons even though it was
still good to consume. Trimming the fat from those supply
chains has drastically reduced the donation volume on which
Feeding America relied.
“That’s been our single biggest challenge.”
Of course, it isn’t always easy to get all of the group’s mem-
bers in sync. “Like any franchisee knows, getting a large number
of predominantly independent organizations to operate as a
cohesive network, aligning that set of different entities to exe-
cute as a unit, that’s difficult.”
Blawat sees himself as running a national brokerage net-
work, but with a special problem: the donation volume never
creates a good nutritional mix of product for the food bank
shelves each day. So two programs, one for fresh produce, the
other for groceries, were implemented in an effort to alleviate
that stress at the food bank level.
To view this video interview in its entirety,