Companies often look for ways to do more with less. Acquiring more product at lower costs or offering more services using less resources. When it comes to distributing food, your Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank is using innovation to do exactly that – acquiring thousands of pounds of bulk food product at a lower cost per pound and then repackaging that food into sizes appropriate for efficient food distributions.

Meet Mark McCormick, Senior Packaging Technician in our Zappe Bulk Packaging Room. Mark and his team of volunteers work daily packaging up a myriad of bulk products including rice, beans, pasta, and more. So how does it work?

The high-tech machinery uses a high-pressure hose to funnel the bulk product from its shipping container onto the conveyor belt with trays that help sort the amount of product in each tray as they move vertically to the top of the machine. From there, the product drops into a mechanical chamber of pockets with specifically sized portions that are then automatically dropped into bags, sealed, and labeled before hitting the conveyor belt for packing by volunteers.

A high-tech computer runs the entire machine and has individual ingredient settings by product that automate the labeling process. While the machine does most of the work, Mark is uniquely equipped and trained to manage all aspects of bulk packaging. From troubleshooting parts, navigating sophisticated computer software, and keeping all food safety measures in place for both machines and working volunteers, Mark does it all and makes sure product stays on the move.

Mark leads a team of volunteers to execute industry leading standards in quality inspections from bag integrity via a leak detector, metal detection to help identify foreign materials, and additional hourly shift quality checks to ensure our food safety and quality standards are maintained at the highest levels.

It is important to note that our bulk packaging operation is one of the only of its kind being used in the Food Bank industry. This allows us to cut costs for our own operation of course, but it also gives us the opportunity to barter with other food banks for items we may need which also lowers our costs to acquire food.

We would love to show you in person how it all works. Stop by for a tour of the Food Bank or maybe volunteer for the bulk packaging room on your next volunteer shift. You can volunteer online at brfoodbank.org/give-time-home.

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