"My wife and I deliver food to the hungry every other week with our church," says Pacific Foods CEO and founder Chuck Eggert. "You see the single mom with four kids, the guy with just one bottle of water in the fridge. I think everyone should have that experience."
Eggert also donates on a larger scale. an Oregon-based, independently owned and operated organic food company that makes vegetarian soups, sauces and hippie staples like hemp milk, has been donating excess and unsold products to the Oregon Food Bank since it was founded in 1987.
Recently, Eggert committed part of the factory production line to producing 24,000 cartons of soup per month specifically for the food bank. The soup, packaged in aseptic Tetra Pak, is a vessel for transforming excess donated produce into a shelf-stable, product. This, in turn, enables the Food Bank to accept more donations of healthy fruits and vegetables, including from Pacific Foods' own farms. Just like Dad throwing together dinner from whatever's in the pantry, the chefs at the soup company concoct five different varieties a year of special recipes like Winter Harvest Vegetable from the donations on hand. Once, they made "cream of French Fry" soup from 200,000 pounds of donated French fries.
"We try to make the best soup we can," says Eggert. "That one was like a potato soup with a French fry taste."
Making the donated soup takes no more than three or four hours a month at the Pacific Foods factory. But the company hopes its initiative will spur more farmers and large food producers to get involved in harnessing excess capacity to feed the hungry in a way that's both efficient and appetizing.
"A lot of times when people donate to the food bank they clear out their pantry of everything they haven't used in three years," says Eggert. "But people need good nutritious food, not weird food."