Narrow aisles, long and tall food-stacked shelves, a steady stream of customers.
Similar in nature but smaller in scope in grocery store-type circles, the Kent Food Bank & Emergency Services center runs on volunteer muscle and limited hours – delivering nonperishable food and household items to as many as 100 disadvantaged families a day.
Such an operation is daunting, especially when it comes to perpetually receiving, organizing and distributing inventory – everything from bread to peanut butter, toothpaste to canned soup, paper towels to coffee, frozen meat to fresh produce.
It’s challenging to keep order at the hamlet on Harrison Street, where many elbows are in motion and, in some corners of the building, little space can be found.
Food bank operators know as much.
Recognizing the obstacles and receptive to ideas, food bank managers welcomed a four-member senior team from Amazon’s Kent fulfillment center last week. Instead of the company’s iconic brown boxes with a smile, Amazon leaders delivered their insights and expertise on streamlining operations to maximize resources and improve overall efficiency.
Amazon punctuated its visit by presenting the food bank with a surprise $10,000 financial donation to support its logistics operations and programming.
Amazon associates – 15 strong from its Kent center – also volunteered, helping the food bank sort and pack emergency supplies during their March 1 visit.
Suggestions and feedback were good. The company’s outreach effort was successful in establishing and hopefully continuing a productive and rewarding relationship.
“To have someone to come in with fresh eyes to see where we can improve is really nice,” said Jeniece Choate, the food bank’s executive director. “To have someone help us with our efficiencies and conveniences is important.
“We’re thrilled to work with Amazon to expand our efforts in the Kent community,” Choate added. “We appreciate their invaluable experience and generous donation to our food bank, and we look forward to continuing our great relationship with Amazon.”
What the Amazon team can discover today might help food bank performance tomorrow.
Amazon, the corporate and retail giant, ships more than a million packages throughout the U.S. each day.
The senior team offered ideas on how to improve customer service flow, how to identify which product to move first, how to post signage to better communicate with multicultural clientele and how to redesign the floor and work place areas.
Amazon’s visit was the latest in its outreach to help community partners. Amazon has donated money and resources to Seattle Children’s Hospital, supported local schools and other organizations.
“It’s a big deal for us to offer products and money but also our efforts and expertise, things we do on a day-to-day basis,” said Sally Smith, general manager of the Kent fulfillment center.
Amazon donates millions of pounds of food from facilities in Washington through Food Lifeline, a Feeding America affiliate that partners with the Kent Food Bank.
Kent Food Bank & Emergency Services helps families and individuals living within the boundaries of the Kent School District with food, clothing and referrals for social services. In 2016, the food bank supported nearly 60,000 people in the community by distributing more than 1.5 million pounds of food and nearly 70,000 items of clothing.
For more information or to donate, visit kentfoodbank.org.