Tortillas for a year 

From Illinois to Honduras, corn donation feeds 600 orphaned kids 

By Kelly Sheehan and Tom Vandyck February 19, 2015

When Chad Gann, a supply chain manager at Cargill's corn milling facility in Paris, Ill., was asked late last year to help arrange a donation of corn to an orphanage in Honduras, it seemed like a no-brainer.  If there's one thing we have plenty of, it's corn.  What makes more sense for Cargill, a company that is dedicated to nourishing people, than helping to feed children in need?

"It sounded like a perfect fit for us," said Gann.  "With corn as a major staple in the children's diet, we just need to find a way to get our white corn to them."

4,300 tortillas a day

The orphanage, named Plan Escalon, is in the town of La Entrada, located in western Honduras. The subtropical climate and the beauty of its mountainous surroundings belie a host of underlying problems: poverty, lack of education and orphaned children.

Plan Escalon, operated by the Christian charity Tree of Life Ministries, serves some of the neediest children in Honduras. It houses over 500 kids, and schools and feeds another 100 more, ranging from 7th to 12th grade. All students are poor and either orphaned or abandoned.

Last fall, when Plan Escalon experienced a food shortage that threatened its students, Cargill’s facility in Paris, Ill., about 3,000 miles to the north, stepped in to meet the need.

inpage-plan-escalonGirls from the orphanage eat tortillas made with the corn donation."They make more than 4,300 tortillas a day to feed all 600 children," Gann explained. "With Cargill's donation of 80,000 pounds of white corn, they are able to make enough tortillas to feed the children for an entire year."

In the bag

The idea for the donation came from Mark Buzek, human resources manager at the Paris plant.  He had worked with Plan Escalon and its partner charity RetailROI (short for Retail Orphan Initiative) in the past and knew that they were in dire need of help feeding their students.

"The problem was, we didn't really have the facilities to make it happen at Paris," said Gann.  "We're corn millers, not packagers. The corn needed to be bagged.  I knew if I could persuade someone to do that for us, we could use our connections across the industry to help get the corn to Plan Escalon."

Cargill enlisted the help of partner Fischer Seed, a supplier of corn to Cargill, to package the corn in 50-pound bags that could travel and be safely stored at the school. RetailROI coordinated with the school and paid for shipping.

“It’s hard to quantify the impact of this donation in dollar terms,” said Buzek. “Last year, this school did outreach trips focused on clean water, hygiene and education to over 400,000 people in Honduras as part of its Life In Action curriculum. This donation keeps them going. It provides for an exponential impact to this poor country where most families survive on less than $2 a day income.”

Global commitment

The Paris facility has approximately 100 employees and grinds 16 million bushels of corn per year, producing goods (e.g., grits, flour and meal) used in food applications such as cereal and snack food production, brewing, breading and batters.

In addition to the generous contribution to Plan Escalon, Cargill’s Paris facility has donated more than $100,000 to various local organizations, such as the Compassionate Food Pantry and The Salvation Army, and volunteered more than 1,300 hours in 2014.

“We’ve provided significant financial and volunteer support in the community of Paris,” said Gann. “Plan Escalon gave us the opportunity to expand our gifts beyond the Paris boundaries.”

“This donation demonstrates our global commitment to reducing hunger and improving education,” said Doug Myers, Cargill Paris facility manager.