Unique COVID-19 Challenges Being Met By Humanitarian Cold Chain Services


With the ongoing pandemic crisis, it is heartening to learn that new strides in humanitarian supply chains are being made by leading providers of national distribution services.

At the forefront of this effort is the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) which has been aiding the Arkansas Foodbank by giving it over 2 million extra pounds of perishable and non-perishable food donated by suddenly overstocked restaurant suppliers.

Core-Mark’s regional distribution center in Forrest City, Ark., is donating the use of several of its drivers, trucks and temperature-controlled trailers to deliver the donated food.

Currently, the Core-Mark team regularly transports the donated food from Arkansas Foodbank’s warehouse in Little Rock to food pantries, soup kitchens, churches and other centers in a 33-county service area.

“Climate-controlled units and transportation services are always hugely valuable commodities, but especially at times like these when so many additional families need food,” said Kathy Fulton, Executive Director, ALAN. “We were so pleased when Core-Mark agreed to assist with this project, and we are grateful for their partnership and commitment to serving communities in need.”

As noted in SCMR last year, Fulton participated in USC’s 7th Annual Global Supply Chain Excellence Summit, where she helped examine the current state of humanitarian aid

In an exclusive interview with Supply Chain Management Review, Fulton shared these insights on the current state of cold chain services.

Supply Chain Management Review (SCMR): How have your members leveraged new cold chain services to reach those most in need?

Kathy Fulton: Certainly not new technology, but refrigerated technology is playing a huge role right now. The majority of products at food banks and pantries are shelf stable, and the facilities have small amounts of chilled or frozen space.

SCMR: Can you describe the supply chain?

Fulton: The products being distributed by USDA programs like Coronavirus Food Assistance Program are primarily perishables like proteins, dairy, and fruits and vegetables. The need for temporary cold storage – whether in refrigerated trailers/containers or available warehouse space has increased dramatically during the pandemic.

Where does quality infrastructure play the biggest role?

Fulton: During the height of the stay-at-home orders, it was very interesting to talk with shippers and transportation providers who loved the lack of traffic on roadways. For those who needed to transit areas that are notorious transportation bottlenecks, the reduced congestion increased the velocity of their supply chains.

SCMR: How has ALAN’s past performance helped during this current emergency?

Fulton: When you consider the extreme demand spikes for many products, that probably helped keep some of the more fragile supply chains from even more challenges. We already know our supply chains struggle when we have a weather-related disaster that increases demand but closes roads and bridges, and power, water, wastewater, and other public infrastructure. Those traditional disasters are typically isolated to a geographic region. If we have some type of additional stressor with supply chains everywhere still stretched as they are due to the pandemic, and it causes infrastructure challenges, we won’t be able to surge support from elsewhere. Suddenly a disaster becomes a truly catastrophic scenario.

SCMR: Is there adequate warehousing to meet most of your needs?

Fulton: We’ve not had a lot of requests for cold chain warehousing, so difficult for me to say. But I am aware of at least one case where we needed some warehouse space for a partner, and a couple of the groups we asked were unfortunately unable to support it due to the pace of their operations.

About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor

Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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2020-07-29 14:02:00


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