Martin Preferred Foods Copes with Houston Flood Havoc
For the first time in the 74-year history of the Martin Preferred Foods (MPF), weather conditions forced the closure of its Houston facilities on August 28 due to the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Harvey turned Tropical Storm Harvey. On that morning, rainfall in the flood-ravaged region had exceeded 49 inches (over 125cm), surpassing the previous record of 48 inches set in Medina, Texas, by Tropical Storm Amelia back in 1978.
As this story was being written, the human death toll attributed to the natural disaster had risen to 15 in southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana, where tens of thousands of people were displaced and approximately 17,000 were in shelters, according to the American Red Cross.
“Our foremost thoughts and concerns are for the safety and welfare of our extended family of 375 employees, as well as for our customers, and the people across Houston and the surrounding areas,” said MPF President and Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Tapick. “Our hearts are heavy for those among us who have suffered so much from this disaster.”
Despite being officially closed, on Monday afternoon, Tapick, along with CFO Charles Poirier, Director of Security Robert Olivo, and a handful of other employees who live nearby the business were able to safely reach the MPF Houston facility and open the warehouse to supply provisions to nearby customers and first responders.
Situated in the Sawyer Heights area, on some of the highest ground in Houston, Martin Preferred Foods was physically unaffected by the flooding as well as the power loss that left more than 100,000 neighbors without electricity. The facility is equipped with complete backup power generators for its two USDA plants and warehouses, which have about 200,000 square feet of further processing, freezer and cooler space. However, like most parts of Houston, access to the MPF plants was restricted due to devastating flooding of major roadways.
“We have a number of customers in downtown Houston, including large hotels and the convention center, who are housing thousands of emergency first responders and flood evacuees, and they are running low on food,” said Tapick. “Some of those customers reached out to us and asked if there was any way we could provide some relief. Those of us who could safely get to work were able to open the warehouse and provide chicken, meat, and groceries for those most in need.”
In addition, MPF dropped off a donation of beef fajitas to a nearby Houston Police Department facility. That gesture literally brought tears to the eyes of the sergeant on duty.
“Our brave first responders have been working tirelessly for days to keep us safe and out of harm’s way,” said Tapick. “This was the very least we could do to show our support and appreciation, and there’s a lot more where that came from.”
“I am so proud of our team,” said MPF Chairman and CEO Michael Tapick. “This was just a small gesture, but we think it shows how we can help our community in the coming days, weeks and months as we rebuild from this disaster. We are firmly committed to doing whatever we can to support the victims of this disaster, and to help rebuild.”
A number of MPF personnel have been directly impacted by the storm.
The company is committed to provide financial assistance and support to all employees who have lost homes or cars to the flooding.
Early on Tuesday morning a veteran police sergeant, 60-year-old Steve Perez, drowned in his patrol car after he became trapped in high water while driving to work. On Monday it was reported that a family of six perished when a van in which they were motoring was swept away in fast moving floodwater.
Although rain continued to fall in the Houston area throughout Tuesday and thunderstorms were in the forecast for Wednesday, MPF was open – but only for personnel able to get to work safely.
“We have stressed to all of our employees that their safety and the safety of their families is the most important consideration. If they are unsure about the safety of travel then they absolutely should stay home. But for those nearby employees who are able to safely travel to work, we will be open and doing whatever we can to supply product to those who need it,” said President Tapick. “Given our location close to downtown, we believe we can help serve a great need to the places housing evacuees by opening our doors and supplying chicken, meat, and groceries, and at a minimum that is what we intend to do.”
MPF is a further processer and distributor of red meat, poultry, fish, seafood and specialty grocery items to foodservice and retail customers across Texas and the nation. Its more than 1,800 customers include fine dining restaurants, hotels, country clubs, high-end retailers, and regional and national foodservice chains.
All this week, the company has remained open for business in its Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio locations.
MPF’s Disaster Preparedness team began making plans for the storm on August 23. As part of contingency planning, it worked in conjunction with customers by producing and delivering extra product to its other locations well in advance of the storm’s arrival.
This week, the company has diverted some suppliers to its Dallas warehouse and distribution facility, and has been shipping product to customers from that location. In addition, it has been working closely with backup vendors in Dallas and Central Texas to supply further processed items during the time that its Houston facility is expected to be offline.
“We continue to urge everyone to remain safe, and we hope that the remnants of this storm pass quickly without further harm to the people of our area,” said Tapick.
Kroger Aids Houston Food Bank
Meanwhile, as relief workers and financial assistance began pouring into the disaster zone from private and public sectors across the USA and beyond, the Kroger Co. Foundation announced the commitment of $100,000 to the Houston Food Bank to supply operational support and meals to families affected by the floods. America's largest food bank serves 600 hunger relief charities in 18 southeast Texas counties.
For every social share of the #KrogerCares post, the Foundation will donate $5 to the Food Bank, up to $100,000. Additionally, the grocery retail chain is inviting customers to join giving efforts by donating through in-store programs.
"We are quickly mobilizing our resources – food, dollars, vendors, community partners, customers and associates – to do our part to help the Greater Houston community and its residents during this devastating and unprecedented storm, " said Jessica Adelman, Kroger's group vice president of corporate affairs. "We know that meals matter, and it's imperative that we help feed and support Texans during this trying time."
"Kroger's donation will help us where we need it most: securing trucks, forklifts and temporary staffing,” said Brian Greene, president and ceo of the Houston Food Bank. “These assets are vital and essential to the Food Bank. Without them, we are unable to move food into areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. We've never had to respond to such widespread devastation, so our need for operational help is higher than it's ever been."
Across the USA, customers can visit Kroger stores to make cash donations that will be put to good use by the American Red Cross. The chain is also inviting its 443,000 employees to join the cause as well as support fellow associates in the Houston area affected by the storm through Helping Hands, an internal fundraising effort.
Along with monetary giving, Kroger will continue to aid rescue organizations, shelters and first responders with food, water and toiletries. The mobile Kroger Pharmacy is en route to the Houston region to help refill customers' prescriptions, provide immunizations, and perform blood pressure and glucose screenings.
"This storm has ravaged our city, but I know the heart and resilience of Houstonians – we can and will overcome this," said Marlene Stewart, Kroger's president of the Houston division. "We are working tirelessly to help support recovery, rescue and relief efforts. We will be here every step of the way."