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Construction company packaging meals for charity

Chad Frey
cfrey@thekansan.com
Hutton Construction is paying employees to pack meals for "The Outreach Program," a charity that distributes meals to those suffering from food insecurity, in a first-of-its-kind program during the COVID-19 pandemic.

McPHERSON -- There is a special building project going on at Hutton Construction of McPherson, one that has workers exchanging hammers and hard hats for gloves and masks.

Employees, and their families, have started packaging meals for “The Outreach Program.”

Hutton is paying employees to package meals for food banks.

“I have never seen anything like this. I have been packaging meals for 10 years, and have done millions of meals with volunteers,” said Rick McNary, an Outreach Program coordinator from Potwin. “Hutton has done something truly remarkable.”

In addition to the paid staff, employee family members asked if they could volunteer to help. The result is between 3,000 and 3,500 meals packaged each day — and each meal can feed six people. All of that is being done under COVID-19 social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders issued by the governor.

“We are doing this because of the needs of food banks. Food Banks are being heavily utilized by people who have lost their jobs and in need the food, for whatever reason,” said Luke Amend, team leader of Hutton McPherson.

Founded in 2003, the Outreach Program was started by Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton of Union, Iowa. The program packages meals for use worldwide. Outreach has helped to package more than 550 million meals that have been distributed across the United States and around the world.

Right now the program is focusing on the United States in response to the Covid-19 crisis. The nutrient-dense, shelf-stable, easy-to-prepare meals are in high demand in Kansas and across the U.S. by food banks and senior-service agencies who serve a vulnerable, elderly population.

“In our discussions with local, state and national agencies, they have alerted us to their need and growing concern to provide nutritious food for the elderly,” said Floyd Hammer, founder of The Outreach Program. “Agencies and charities who serve seniors are requesting our food. Although, our model has always been to package these meals with large groups of volunteers at meal packaging events, the limit of 10 people and social distancing has brought new challenges and opportunities.”

All the meals packaged by Hutton will stay as local as possible — and all will stay within the United States. According to McNary meals will be distributed by organzations dedicated to helping senior citizens like Meals on Wheels.

Hutton is the first company to help The Outreach Program create a new Covid-19 Response model that engages their employees and families in a safe manner by observing social distancing requirements and utilizing appropriate protective equipment.

“We are excited to be able to partner with The Outreach Program in building this new delivery model to help support those in our community in need,” said Ben Hutton, CEO of Hutton.

Over the three weeks that Hutton will be working on the project, the company plans to commit more than 900-man hours of time and package 250,000 meals. Hutton is exercising corporate social responsibility in a practical and much-needed way, helping provide meals for seniors and other vulnerable populations.

“Hutton is packaging five of our seven varieties of meals,” Hammer said. “All of our meals are formulated in collaboration with Iowa State University’s Food Science Department to be nutritious and taste good. We will assemble a variety of the finished meals into small boxes we call our Senior Assurance Pantry Packs”

The pantry pack contains serve bags of meals including: two Cinnamon Apple Oatmeals; two macaroni and cheese meals; two rice and bean meals; and one pasta with tomato basil sauce meal. For donors who want to sponsor a package, each package costs $11.95 at outreachprogram.org.

Hutton is also packaging meals of cheesy rice, Spanish rice and minestrone soup. The program has seven different kinds of meals it can put into pantry packs. Everything is considered “shelf stable,” food that can be safely stored at room temperature in a sealed container.