Featured in the News: The Outreach Program: Feeding the hungry – and so much more
Below is an excerpt from an article recently published on March 1, 2021, in the Eldora Herald-Ledger, by Elaine Loring, News Editor.
UNION, IOWA – The small town of Union is home to a company that has been doing really big things, and now Outreach, Inc. has achieved certification from AIB International (American Institute of Bakers), which is one of the world’s foremost food safety certification organizations. The AIB certification represents the best practices for food handling and distribution in the industry. The story of Outreach, Inc. dates back to 1993 when Floyd and Kathy (Hamilton) Hammer were the owners of Plastics Recycling in Iowa Falls. The company went public in 1994, so they sold it with the plans to enjoy a long and much-needed retirement, but it wasn’t long before unforeseen circumstances arose, and the Hammers took the company back in 1996, selling for the second time in 1998.
However, in 2003, their retirement plans were cut short again when a visit to Tanzania, Africa, opened their eyes to the hungry and uneducated African children. They were initially invited to that region to build an AIDs hospice by remodeling an old leprosy hospital. “The Tanzanian government wasn’t giving anything to people with AIDS,” Floyd said. “You would die if you contracted it.” In addition to the AIDS hospice, they really wanted to help the desperately hungry people. So in 2004, Outreach, Inc. began in the Hammer’s home, quickly outgrowing that space and moving to the current location at 301 Center St.
Outreach packages and ships meals for the hungry and to date has packaged over 600 million meals through volunteer and packaging organizations. The meals have basic ingredients like rice, soy, dried vegetables, vitamins, flavoring, and pasta, and one package can serve a family of six. In 2007, a children’s center was built in Tanzania, and these basic meals have become a Godsend, feeding 1,200 children a day in that village in Tanzania, as well as people across the planet. It’s a labor of love for the Hammers, and “if you’re in it for the profit, go somewhere else,” Floyd noted.
The Hammers believe in providing four basic needs to all those they help – water, food, medicine, and education. Not only do they supply these meals, but they have also hired a doctor to help the African nationals, treated the water to make it potable, and provided education for both boys and girls in the Tanzanian village. Outreach has also expanded to 80 wholesale accounts across the United States, and the food packages – at the cost of $1.80 each – now include oatmeal, minestrone, macaroni and cheese, rice and beans, and rice pudding. Most of the ingredients come from factories in the United States.“Our meals are created with Iowa State University,” Kathy said. “They tell us what to add and what to take out. They are also taste-testers.” The AIB certification process is focused on the five following categories: Operational Methods and Personnel Practices, Maintenance for Food Safety, Cleaning Practices, Integrated Pest Management and Adequacy of Prerequisite Programs, and Food Safety Programs.
The warehousing, packaging, and fulfillment of packaged food products require focused attention to detail. To maintain food safety and quality, it is important that manufacturers are adhering to the best practices in the industry. AIB certification is a recognized method of ensuring that suppliers are committed to established protocols related to processing food products through onsite AIB inspection and certification. Outreach meal packaging events are set up across the United States to engage businesses, religious and civic organizations, schools, and volunteers of all ages to package nutritious meals for the hungry.
In 2013 Floyd and Kathy received the 5,000th Points of Light Award from former President Barack Obama and former President George H.W. Bush. The award is dedicated to volunteers who give back to their community every day, often with very little recognition and in innovative ways. As a recipient of the top “Four Star” rating from Charity Navigator and GuideStar’s Exchange Seal for transparency, Outreach is committed to improving the lives of disadvantaged individuals. Outreach, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, visit outreachprogram.org.