Each fall, since 2013, John Deere employees have united to package thousands of meals for food banks in their communities in an effort to help fight hunger. Dedicated teams of hard-working employee volunteers have helped make the events more successful each and every year. At the heart of this effort are the John Deere Foundation and Shannon Adams, project manager for John Deere’s Corporate Citizenship group.
“When we first started the events, our goal was simply to celebrate World Food Day in October,” says Adams. That year, 14 units participated and 960,000 meals were packaged. “Now in our third year, we celebrated World Food Day over three months with 21 (business) units, and packaged 1,375,704 meals,” Adams says. “It’s been a great success and an impactful way to call attention to the needs of our communities.”
Adams works with our business units that include factories, parts distribution centers and other facilities to coordinate the meal packaging events. She connects event leaders with Outreach, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping to end global hunger. Outreach delivers ingredients and supplies for the meal packaging events then helps coordinate delivering the meals to local food banks. The John Deere Foundation covers the costs of the events by providing a grant to Outreach.
Local Communities Benefit
At the North American Parts Distribution Center in Milan, Ill., event coordinators used music to create a fun, vibrant work environment for volunteers while they packaged meals. “The event enabled employees to meet people they normally wouldn’t work with while giving back to the community” says Ryan Mendoza, accounting supervisor and one of the event co-chairs.
Des Moines Works, John Deere Financial, and John Deere ISG – Urbandale packaged meals for the greater Des Moines, Iowa, community. Hosting a meal packaging event for the second time in three years, Des Moines Works rallied more than 400 volunteers in a few weeks and quickly surpassed their goal. Three hours into the event, organizers realized they would meet their goal of 80,000 meals quicker than anticipated. “We worked with Outreach to have 40,000 more meals delivered,” says Sarah Cook, continuous improvement coordinator, and event co-chair. “It is amazing what teamwork can accomplish.”
Employees from John Deere facilities across the U.S. and Germany packaged meals for their local communities.
Callie Angove, communications specialist, has volunteered to package meals for the past three years at John Deere Financial and has seen the excitement it creates amongst the employees that participate. “Within a few weeks, all of the volunteer positions were filled. It offers employees a chance to get away from their desks and do something good for the community,” says Angove.
This year’s meal packaging effort to fight hunger was the first to take place at John Deere ISG – Urbandale. “The other units helped us get a better understanding of what the event would entail,” says Travis Newton, project manager, who headed the event. Together, the three units packaged more than 225,000 meals for the Des Moines community.
Germany Now Included
While the program has grown in the U.S., this year it also expanded to include John Deere business units outside of North America. About 300 of our employees from Bruchsal, Kaiserslautern, Mannheim and Zweibrücken, Germany, packaged 6,000 food parcels that were donated to their local food bank. The Day of Caring event was funded by a John Deere Foundation grant and developed in coordination with United Way Worldwide and Phineo, a Berlin-based United Way partner. “Many of our employees were surprised to learn that one in seven people in Germany live below the poverty level, mostly children,” said Vanessa Buttignon, EU public affairs manager.
Total Meals Packaged
2013 – 960,000
2014 – 975,000
2015 – 1,375,704
Adams expects the meal packaging initiative will keep growing and making a difference in the fight against hunger. “While an hour of your time may not seem like a lot, the meal packaging events prove that one small act can make an impact on thousands of lives,” she says.