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Community Care during COVID Crisis

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Food scarcity is a concern for many year round, but with the current health crisis, millions of people have found themselves out of work and unable to feed their families. Earl’s Organic has always had a robust donation program, and  has risen to the occasion once more. Since April, we’ve donated and delivered 150 tons of organic produce to 6 different organizations in the Bay Area that do incredible work distributing resources to people in need in their communities. For context, in all of  2019, we donated 200 tons of produce.

This herculean feat is the manifestation of our core value of teamwork and is only possible due to an incredible synergy between the many teams at Earl’s Organic

Vianney, Julia, Mitchell, and Joe have taken the lead in Earl’s donation efforts

The Quality Assurance team at Earl’s has rigorous standards for what produce is received from our vendors and given the green light to be sold to our customers. QA/IC Supervisor Julia Chandler and her team assess produce that may not meet aesthetic standards or is nearing a sell date for retail but is still good quality and set it aside for donation. This could be anywhere from a couple of cases of mixed product, to several pallets of one item. Historically, Julia coordinated weekly pick-up donations by the local food bank; the pandemic stopped this in its tracks and forced Earl’s to reexamine what continued commitment to the community would have to look like. 

First donation to Gazzali’s Supermarket

 In late March, Earl read an article highlighting Gazzali’s Market in East Oakland and their donation efforts for seniors in their community who could not shop safely due to COVID-19. Earl donated three pallets of produce to Gazzali’s for their next give away day, being able to do this started a conversation about how Earl’s could continue to support communities impacted the hardest by the pandemic. We have the produce. We just need to get it to people, a process that requires a significant amount of coordination – which is what we do every day.

At Earl’s, we cultivate meaningful, enduring partnerships based on mutual respect and attention to detail.  It only made sense for this to be our approach to donations. Administration and Sustainability coordinator Vianney Trujillo began building a roster and developing relationships with organizations that are doing work that aligns with our values and can handle the volume and varying of produce we donate. A lot of care goes into making sure the needs of each organization are understood and respected. For example cases of nopales, cactus paddles commonly used in Mexican dishes, will have a bigger impact at the Mission Food Hub which serves the Latinx community in the mission, while loose salad mix would be better received by a place like Mother Brown’s Kitchen which prepares 2 meals a day, every day, for the homeless and low income population of the Bayview. Our partnerships come down to understanding the needs and capacity of each group. 

Earl’s has enough produce to donate four to five times a week and each donation is determined by product availability, quantity, and the recipient’s capacity.  As of August, we have six organizations we work closely with that consistently receive produce from us – Alameda County Community Food Bank, Alameda Island Food Bank, SF African American Faith Based Coalition, Unity Council, Mission Food Hub, and Mother Brown’s Kitchen. In addition, we have a few other organizations such as Gazzali’s Market in East Oakland, that reach out when they have large donation events and want support from us, 

Relationships with each organization are managed by Vianney; who communicates and coordinates donations to fit their needs.

Transportation Manager Joe Calderon embraces the challenge of fitting any and all donations into the next day’s routes, sometimes multiple donations in one day.  His attention to detail in regards to the needs of each outlet is unparalleled and allows Earl’s to serve these organizations in ways that best suit their needs. To date, our drivers have made 86 donation deliveries. 

Driver Orlando delivers donation to Alameda Food Bank

Once a donation has been placed on a route, the Outbound team takes it from there.  Trainer Mitchell Gutierrez has taken the lead on building out the donation pallets, final quality checks, staging, and loading for the past several months with care and enthusiasm.

The purchasing team also reaches out to our growers for direct donations. Generous vendors like Lakeside, Del Cabo, and Equal Exchange have contributed several times to our donation program.

Del Cabo donation for Unity Council in East Oakland

We’re incredibly proud of all the work our teams have done to help provide fresh certified organic produce to communities who need it and we’re excited to keep this up for as long as possible.  Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing information about or community partners in a series of blogs. Stay tuned!

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