'A Labor of Love' to Feed Our Communities

Wells Fargo has provided more than 153,000 packaged meals for nonprofits around the U.S. to help people in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jul 31, 2020 8:10 AM ET

When thousands of Wells Fargo employees began working remotely in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the cafeterias at some of the company’s offices stopped serving as many people. However, Wells Fargo’s Corporate Properties Group, which supports Wells Fargo’s workplaces, decided to get creative. The Wells Fargo team modified its contract with one of its food service suppliers to avoid furloughs and layoffs among the supplier’s staff — and decided to use its resources to give back to many of its communities.

Since the end of April, Wells Fargo has donated more than 153,000 packaged meals for 14 (currently 13) nonprofits in nine communities across the U.S. The meals have fed families, front-line workers, and people experiencing homelessness, among others.

“It was important for us to help our suppliers retain the 550 employees who work, many on a part-time basis, at our cafes so they didn’t have to worry about job security at such a challenging economic time,” said Kimberly Bertz, Corporate Properties director for Wells Fargo in Los Angeles. “But we’re also incredibly proud that these meals are going to a number of different nonprofits and are helping so many people. It’s a labor of love.

"There's no playbook for this"

Wells Fargo’s Corporate Properties Group team wanted to honor their supplier contracts at a difficult time, so they decided to provide free, packaged meals to essential Wells Fargo employees required to work in offices with cafeterias — having now provided more than 1.2 million meals to them.

“The food service industry has been decimated,” said John Liotti, vice president of operations for Compass Group, one of the Wells Fargo food service suppliers. “My associates were scared about what the pandemic could mean for their livelihood, but we were also able to continue providing our associates a paycheck by taking care of the Wells Fargo employees.”

Compass Group has enhanced its safety measures to include associates wearing masks while on duty, undergoing daily temperature checks before work, working in shifts with the same people, and only offering packaged meals to those they’re serving, among other measures. These are all in addition to the strict health and hygiene standards they have always followed, Liotti said.

With the extra bandwidth to feed people, Wells Fargo decided to put its resources toward a good cause, said Kathy Sanders, amenities program manager for Corporate Properties Group in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sanders began reaching out to nonprofits she had volunteered with in the Charlotte area and to colleagues in Wells Fargo’s Community Relations group. The Compass Group team also contacted local nonprofits.

“It just made sense,” Sanders said. “Food insecurity is a big issue. There’s no playbook for this. We wrote it as we went.”

The group especially wanted to help children in need, people experiencing homelessness, and health care workers, while also including member food banks of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization and one that Wells Fargo has supported for years, including a $1 million contribution as part of COVID-19 relief. Six of the organizations that have received meals are member food banks of Feeding America.

“The really cool thing is the byproduct of what came out of this,” Liotti said. “Everybody was trying to figure out where to make it work. What was born was a sense of giving back, and it picked up momentum. All of a sudden, we had more of a purpose, and we shared that purpose with Wells Fargo.”

‘It’s a massive blessing’

The program launched April 29, initially serving a couple of nonprofits, and grew to 14 nonprofits and about 12,000 to 13,000 meals a week. Food has been prepared and packaged in Wells Fargo’s cafeterias, and the nonprofits have picked up the meals to distribute them to their clients. Other vendors, like a bread company and a bakery in New York, heard about the effort and wanted to donate as well, Liotti said.

CARE for AZ is one of the groups that has received meals since the beginning. Started in early March by nonprofits CityServe Arizona, BridgeBuilders, and Jason Ake, owner of Waypoint Creative, CARE for AZ began in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and involves churches and hospitals serving health care professionals and their families across Arizona, whether it’s providing child care, food, or other services.

Sanders contacted Katie Campana, Community Relations senior consultant in Scottsdale, Arizona, in April. After hearing about CARE for AZ, Campana connected Sanders and Ake, and within 30 minutes, a plan was in place for Wells Fargo to provide food. “It’s been hard to find ways to support front-line workers, and this is a great way to do that,” Campana said. “It’s so gratifying to know it’s helping people who are sacrificing so much for others and who need it the most.”

Wells Fargo has provided 200 meals a day to CARE for AZ, which then distributed the meals to health care professionals and patients’ families waiting in other areas. Any leftover meals have gone to nursing homes. “It’s a massive blessing,” Ake said. “They’ve gone all over the valley. It’s been pretty wonderful. The people we’re in contact with are so grateful, and they’re thankful for the ease of the process, of us coming to them and asking.”

Sanders said she has been proud of what the two companies have accomplished over the last few months. “It was about people working together to help others,” Sanders said. “It’s not every day you get to see what you do make a difference. To me, at the end of the day, I can close my laptop and say, ‘I feel good about what I did.’”