Chuck Eggert is passionate about food. As CEO and founder of Oregon-based natural foods label Pacific Foods, he oversees production of nutritious and tasty staples such as organic broths, non-GMO soups and vegan favorites like almond milk. Though he loves dreaming up new concoctions for his customers, perhaps even closer to the Northwest native's heart is his quest to combat hunger in his home state.
"I deliver food every other week, and all you have to do is go deliver food to understand the need," he told Triple Pundit, recalling times when he visited a neighbor and found only a bottle of water in his refrigerator. "It is something that unfortunately a lot of us don't do directly, and it's such an important issue."
Along with devoting his own time to deliver food with his local church, Eggert uses his company to fight hunger on a much larger scale by donating more than 1 million pounds of food per year to the Oregon Food Bank. Recently, the company took the arrangement one step further by committing monthly production time at its Tualatin, Ore. facility to produce a minimum of 24,000 cartons of soup per month exclusively for the food bank - totaling about 576,000 free meals a year.
The soup, which is packaged in shelf-stable cartons, allows local food banks to transform perishable produce into nutritious product that can last for months on pantry shelves. Each month, the chefs at Pacific are challenged with a list of ingredients collected by the food bank - everything from extra meat and produce to powdered milk. Once, the company even whipped up a "Cream of French Fry" soup from 100,000 pounds of frozen French fries.
"Our goal is to make it as nutritious and as flavorful as we can for the people at the food bank, rather than 'let's just get rid of a bunch of stuff,'" Eggert said. "You can make a good soup out of almost anything if you work at it."
Upon receiving donations in unwieldy proportions or containers, the food bank provides a list of ingredients to the Pacific Foods development team, which creates a recipe to best utilize the donations. The recipe then goes into production with dedicated line time at the factory - a model the company hopes can be replicated across the U.S.
"To us...it shouldn't be something you should congratulate yourself for - doing the right thing," Eggert said. "It's something that's just easy to do, and hopefully we can encourage more people to do things like this."
The food bank’s partnership with Pacific allows it to accept donations from farmers and producers more often, strengthening those relationships and delivering shelf-stable product that the organization can share with its clients for months. By finding a purpose for more of its edible food donations, the food bank estimates that the program prevents more than 200,000 pounds of food from being wasted every year.
“Our ultimate vision is to create an intentional production system. Our hope is that farmers are inspired to raise dedicated crops for donation because we’ve saved line time to cook up something delicious and nutritious,” Eggert said of the partnership in a press release.
The company's dedication is already rippling through Oregon. Talks are in the works with several farmers interested in devoting acres of produce to the food bank to be used in a variety of soup recipes from Pacific.
"We just feel like it's our business. Our business is making food and making it well," Eggert concluded. "We feel very strongly that it shouldn't be part of anyone's life in this day and age to go hungry in Oregon."
Image credit: Staff photo courtesy of Pacific Foods
Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is a freelance journalist who frequently writes about sustainability, corporate social responsibility and clean tech. Mary also contributes to Earth911; her work has appeared on the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands and The Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni.