HOUSTON – Packing and shipping-- who does it better and faster? Of course, Amazon. The giant retailer is providing Houston Food Bank with much-needed assistance when it comes to getting more meals out to more families.
KPRC 2’s Zach Lashway and photojournalist Wladimir Moquete were given the chance to go behind the scenes at Amazon’s HOU2 facility on Houston’s northside.
According to Sunny Sangha, the fulfillment center’s general manager, about a million units a day are shipped from the facility.
“So (we have) the first floor of this facility is 855,000 square feet,” explained Sangha.
One line is dedicated to a special effort.
“After the winter storm, our associates here in this site, bubbled up a lot of concerns that happened. We pack and we ship. We have a huge scale and we can support all the needs of the Houston Food Bank. The biggest opportunity they had were folks weren’t volunteering anymore because of COVID-19 pandemic,” explained Sangha. “I think the most interesting part of this collaboration is how much of an impact we have on the community, that we didn’t know we can have.”
Della Smith is an Amazon associate and packs on the Houston Food Bank line. She showed Lashway how to pack a box that will be sent to a person in need.
“Zach, I will tell you, Houston is a great place to live. To have this opportunity, to do it in my own building, in my own facility, to see the product going down the line, and know each box means a family might eat tonight, that really means a lot to me,” Smith said.
The collaboration has made a big impact within the community since it began in early 2021. More than half a million meals packed, originated from this conveyer belt. From here, they go back to the food bank and then out to the community.
“It’s a blessing for our students and families,” explained Nicole Johns, program director for Student Support Services at Galena Park ISD.
“More than 2000 deliveries have been made and more than 5000 children have been fed. We might have students who are in a shelter, in a hotel, or some students unsheltered who are living in a car,” Johns said.
Johns said the need has increased throughout the pandemic.
“It’s not just a question of, ‘Did you help this family or that family?’ It’s how much did you help them,” explained Brian Greene, the president Houston Food Bank. “We do the best we can with what we get.”
Greene said Amazon’s effort to help the food bank has allowed the non-profit to re-allocate resources that otherwise would have been used for packing.
“Every box that goes out, every bag of produce, there’s a family on the other end, they are never going to know who you are, but you’re making a big difference in their life,” Greene said.
Houston Food Bank’s work is executed by volunteers. Usually, they have a roster of 1,000 people at any given time, but because of the pandemic, that number is reduced to 250 volunteers. Meanwhile, the need is always there and at times it’s growing. Houston Food bank is the largest food bank in the country, serving 800-thousand people a year.
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