Community Focus: Texan County Solves Logistics Puzzle for Meal Delivery

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Garcia delivers a box of food to an elderly individual. (2)(Image Source)

“We strategically and dramatically expanded our meals program, which in pre-pandemic times, were deployed on different schedules” – Commissioner Garcia

It’s been said time and time again: since beginning in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth unprecedented circumstances and difficult challenges to overcome.

Yet, a silver lining in the events of the past year is the spotlight cast on those who have gone the extra mile to conquer them – those who provide aid to their peers and offer assistance in any way they can.

From healthcare workers to all essential-service personnel, the list of individuals who have showcased true altruistic effort is extensive – and certainly included is the Harris County Precinct 2 team and its commissioner, Adrian Garcia, who provided food for thousands amidst the pandemic.

Located in Southeastern Texas, US, Harris County is a Fleet Complete client. The county contains 4 precincts that form one of the oldest and most populous counties in the state. Making up the eastern quarter of the county, Precinct 2 encompasses nearly 560 square miles.

With 17 community centres, 15 municipalities, and 12 school districts within its boundaries, the sense of community in Harris County Precinct 2 is strong – and always looking to help foster that feeling of unity is the precinct’s commissioner, Adrian Garcia.

Born and raised in Harris County, Precinct 2 has always been home to Commissioner Garcia. His 35-year career in public service began as a Houston Police Officer before being appointed Director of the Mayor’s Anti-Gang Office in 1994 and elected to Houston City Council in 2003. Next, Garcia was elected to the office of Harris County Sheriff in 2008 — the largest sheriff's office in Texas and the 3rd largest in the United States. From there, he was elected as the Harris County Commissioner for Precinct 2 in 2018, the role which he holds today.

“It is the honor of my lifetime to serve the people of Precinct 2 as County Commissioner,” Garcia said of his current position. “Precinct 2 is blessed with the most humble and hard-working people I know.”

During his tenure as commissioner, Garcia has done a lot to help the people of Harris County he speaks so fondly of. Still, perhaps one of his greatest accomplishments was seen during the pandemic – where he and the Precinct 2 team successfully implemented a meal program that fed thousands of residents.

The program’s origin came from Commissioner Garcia predicting the food insecurity that could result from the pandemic and the desire to help members of the community who may find themselves in need.

So, the commissioner and Precinct 2 team sprung into action.

Together, they formed a comprehensive approach to overcome limits on food availability arising from the pandemic shutdown, all while ensuring to reduce risks of exposure to COVID-19. As a result, Precinct 2 staff organized and delivered thousands of meals and tens of thousands of pounds of food throughout the precinct which was open to everyone in the county.

The team used various distribution methods, such as improvised drive-thru distribution centres and safely dropping off food boxes to elderly residents.

A Harris County staff member delivers containers of food to an individual in a black truck at a drive-thru food distribution centre.(Image Source)

“We strategically and dramatically expanded our meals program, which in pre-pandemic times, were deployed on different schedules. My team took on the challenge of implementing them all at the same time,” said Commissioner Garcia on the program’s execution.

Starting the initiative was far from a simple task, as the logistics of organizing such a monumental meal program is complicated, to say the least. However, Garcia and the Precinct 2 team rose to the challenge, making use of route planning technology through one of Fleet Complete’s partners, Route4Me, in order to streamline their processes.

“The logistical problem of a multiple-driver home delivery program with optimized routing was solved in partnership with Route4Me and Fleet Complete. Thanks to their support and experience, we were able to redesign our meals program and significantly improve the way we manage route planning and track information along the routes,” said Garcia. “We streamlined the meal delivery process and introduced a level of consistency and now have a tighter control of our deliveries.”

With Harris County and Garcia’s swift action and optimized processes, they were able to successfully implement 6 ambitious meal programs:

  • Brown Bag Lunches – Distributed 21,477 readymade lunches containing a sandwich, fruit, and chips to children at parks and to residents of all ages at community centres.
  • Homebound/Congregate Senior Meal Delivery – Expanded the daily delivery of 37,444 free nutritious hot meals to homebound residents over the age of 60.
  • Hot Meals Fridays – Established a partnership with local restaurants to provide 10,142 hot, nutritious meals on Fridays to residents of all ages, helping to not only feed those in need but also support small-business restaurants.
  • Houston Food Bank Distribution Partnership – Collaborated with the Houston Food Bank to set up and host 48 drive-thru food distributions that provided food and supplies to 25,300 families throughout the precinct.
  • Second Servings Pop Up – Partnered with the non-profit Second Servings of Houston to rescue and redistribute excess perishable food at pop-up drive-thru locations before spoiling.
  • Shelf Stable Meal Boxes – Collected non-perishable food items approved by a registered dietician to bring 28,435 shelf-stable meal boxes to participating senior residents.

With the execution of these 6 programs and thousands of pounds of food delivered, Garcia recognizes that it was a team effort that made this extraordinary achievement possible. “I’m so proud of my team for moving with deliberate speed and staying focused for those who need it the most,” mentioned Garcia. “This has been a true herculean effort.”

An effort of such size wasn’t left unnoticed in the Lone Star State, resulting in Harris County Precinct 2 receiving the 2020 County Best Practices Award presented by the Texas Association of Counties.

“It’s special when your peers across the state of Texas, 254 counties, recognize the work you have been able to do even in the most difficult of circumstances,” said Commissioner Garcia on the acknowledgment.

Despite the recognition, the biggest reward for the meal plan’s success was all the people able to ensure they had access to food during uncertain times.

And yet, thanks to Adrian Garcia and the Precinct 2 team’s efforts, food availability wasn’t the only thing provided for Harris County, but also something intangible – a restored feeling of security in a time when it was needed the most.

Date published.   Jun 07, 2021  |  Author: Benjamin Kingston