At Tyson Foods, a little help goes a long way – and a lot of help goes even further. In a silver lining against the backdrop of natural disasters, team members that volunteer on our Meals that Matter (MtM) disaster relief team know firsthand how the power of being big can create big change.
Always geared up for deployment and quick to respond, Tyson Food’s MtM teams come armed with grills, smokers and a deep desire to serve. Anywhere from three to 10 team members heed the call after a crisis and set out across the country to ensure that those who are coping with their new reality have access to a hot meal and friendly smile.
Our transportation group, which has one of the largest refrigerated, private fleets in the nation, also plays a key role. Drivers deliver hundreds of thousands of pounds of product, ice and water to the cook sites and often stick around to volunteer. We also send our custom built, 53-foot semi-trailer that holds all the necessary supplies for a large-scale feeding operation.
In FY2018, Tyson Foods donated over two million servings of food to those struck by natural disasters.
Once on site, our team members do it all—from set-up and tear down to cooking and cleaning, and maybe most importantly, delivering hundreds of thousands of meals to those impacted by the disaster, volunteers and first responders.
While most of our on-site aid focuses on hot meals provided by our cook teams, we are exploring another disaster relief model that we believe is just as effective.
As you’ve likely seen, much of the country has experienced an extremely rainy Spring that has resulted in historic flooding along the Arkansas River throughout Oklahoma and Arkansas—where Tyson roots run deep. Because the impact of the flooding stretches hundreds of miles through countless communities, in the last few weeks we’ve taken a slightly different approach.
By working through Feeding America food banks in Fort Smith and Little Rock, Arkansas, we’ve donated approximately 80 tons of product to hunger relief agencies, food pantries, non-profit groups and religious organizations who are supporting feeding operations throughout the state. Using our resources to help as many folks as possible is the goal.
But we’re more than just a food company when it comes to disaster relief.
Often in disaster aftermath, we see homes and businesses and entire buildings in ruins. While the physical damage within the community is apparent, it’s also important to provide resources for the damage that isn’t so apparent: the physical, emotional and spiritual toll a disaster takes on individuals.
We deploy company nurses and chaplains to provide minor medical care and counseling. Along with food and water, support and comfort are just as important in our relief efforts. Our team works tirelessly to deliver not only food products and cooking equipment, but medical supplies necessary for our nurses to provide the best possible care. And our chaplains, who typically provide pastoral care to team members across our Tyson communities, are on-site to help victims cope with the emotional and spiritual pain that comes with natural disasters.
I have been lucky enough to be involved with MtM for the past five and a half years and have joined our team on nearly 10 deployments—some lasting almost a week. They’ve given me some of my most rewarding experiences at Tyson Foods. To see something as simple as a chicken sandwich and a bottle of water bring those who have lost everything to tears is a profound and unforgettable experience. Along with the team work and tenacity it takes to work 12 to 18-hour days under extreme conditions, it’s truly team building on steroids and something I wish all of my colleagues at Tyson could experience.