PepsiCo R&D created a Cold Box to deliver food, at the appropriate temperatures, to underserved children.
Nearly 22 million American children receive low or no-cost lunches during the school year. While these students are eligible for government-sponsored free lunch programs during the summer, fewer than 15 percent (3 million) have access.
That’s where PepsiCo’s collaborative efforts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), state agencies and local non-profits help close the access gap with the Food for Good program.
Food for Good, now in its sixth year, expects to deliver over 5 million healthy servings to low-income kids this year in eight cities -- Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, Little Rock, Detroit, Denver, Oklahoma City and Waco, Texas.
“Food for Good is an expression of our commitment to Performance with Purpose,” said Matt Smith, director PepsiCo Food for Good. “It’s our goal to deliver sustained financial performance while at the same time embracing human, environmental and talent sustainability.
“The program is a great example of public-private collaboration where together we are able to make a difference in the lives of children who would otherwise go hungry,” said Smith.
The need for these services is stronger than ever. The access challenges faced by low-income children are particularly acute during the summertime.
During the school year, kids are able to jump on buses to get to schools where they receive lunch.
During the summer, when schools are closed, food needs to be taken to the kids where they live. It is a huge logistical challenge to feed highly perishable food to so many kids dispersed across underserved neighborhoods.
What’s more, the USDA requires food be delivered and maintained at a certain temperature. That creates challenges for many agencies once the food is off the trucks.
To create an efficient solution, one that satisfied USDA compliance standards, PepsiCo’s research and development team got to work and produced a delivery container using highly efficient technology to keep the foods cold, making it possible to get perishable food into previously underserved areas to feed thousands of new children.
“We needed a way to deliver foods to children and keep the foods at refrigerated temperatures since food is delivered on unrefrigerated trucks,” said PepsiCo research and development director and Food for Good steering committee member, Brad Rodgers.
The Food for Good team created an innovative and inexpensive Cold Box in which to ship food to children. It is the perfect example of how PepsiCo’s deep research and development expertise makes it uniquely qualified to address food access challenges.
“Food for Good presented an opportunity to evaluate a new technology, refine it and develop a practical container for keeping foods cold,” said Rodgers. “This technology has proven to do that quite well, even in upwards of 105°F Texas summers.”
The Cold Box innovation for the transportation and short-term storage of refrigerated foods and beverages deploys a Phase Change Material, which can be engineered to maintain temperatures between -40°F and 302°F (-40°C and 150°C).
The Cold Boxes have enabled Food for Good to offer a smaller, more controlled cooling environment that can deliver both ambient temperature and refrigerated items. “When need meets technology readiness, that's where innovation happens, and the willingness of both parties to give it a try made it a reality,” said Rodgers.
Food for Good also allows PepsiCo to develop talent, generating new job opportunities for delivery drivers, food-packers, warehouse workers and field staff supervisors.
The summer meals program alone directly creates more than 100 jobs each year, hiring employees from the same communities the Food for Good program serves. In addition, PepsiCo’s local non-profit partners create another 100-plus summer jobs each year—from coordinating physical activities for the children to providing nutrition education.
In addition to job-creation, hundreds of PepsiCo employees volunteer with Food for Good each year, helping with everything from creating a fun and active environment at outreach locations to serving on the organization’s steering committee.