The food bank relies on the support of people on all steps in the food supply chain to fill our shelves. Beth Sharratt has been an essential cog in this wheel over the last few years.
Educated as a social worker, Beth started her career working in community kitchens that served neighbors facing homelessness, but, a few years after, she took a job in food manufacturing. There, she worked with numerous food banks across the country, including Feeding America West Michigan, as they purchased food to fill their shelves.
Large-scale food donations don’t always offer the food our partners need, so we purchase some food to fill the gaps. Typically this means Jerry, our product sourcing manager, must order different types of food from many different places, which can be time-consuming.
When Beth worked at a food manufacturer, she noticed this gap. She realized there was a need for a one-stop-shop where food banks could purchase large quantities of a variety of foods at an even lower cost than a typical manufacturer could provide.
So two years ago, she started Sharratt Provisions, a distribution company that works with food manufacturers to secure large quantities of shelf-stable items that food banks need.
“I wanted to create a company that could cater to food banks,” Beth said. “I absolutely love what food banks are all about — people trying to feed people.”
As a for-profit company that focuses on building connections with manufacturers, Sharratt Provisions is able to purchase quantities of food far larger than a food bank could. They have multiple warehouses where they break down this food into smaller quantities for delivery.
Jerry can then purchase a variety of items at once — perfect for when our partner programs need a specific type of food. Food banks rely mostly on donations, but purchasing allows us to tailor our offerings to our partners’ needs. For example, for a backpack program, Jerry can order certain sizes and quantities of juice, cereal boxes and canned protein, all in one order from Sharratt Provisions.
At the start of the pandemic last year, the food bank’s shelves were almost bare. Shortages in the food supply chain meant we received very few donations, so we had to purchase more food than ever. Beth’s company helped our food bank make it through this critical time.
Canned foods were particularly in short supply, but Jerry needed to secure certain canned goods for the programs relying on our food bank to run. Beth and her team helped make this happen.
“A lot goes into food sourcing,” she said. “Everyone was scrambling to get what the food banks needed.”
Beth and her team’s connections and efficiency meant they were able to help hundreds of food banks secure essential foods during the height of the pandemic.
As a passionate food bank supporter, Beth has now visited almost every food bank in the U.S., including ours.
“You develop relationships, you learn so much about food banking. You get a really good sense of what food banks are doing and the scope of it all,” she said.
She’s passionate about the mission, too.
“We’re in a unique time when people are needing help more than ever. Without food banks, I don’t know how some people would be able to keep things going.”