Outsourcing to Feed the Hungry

Do you love to prepare meals? For me, it’s usually a chore.

But last week I was part of a team that prepared over 109,000 meals in 24 hours.

It was an amazing experience in many ways, and it showed me a new angle on the importance of focus and outsourcing. These ideas are central to making build-or-buy decisions, which is one of the twelve essential skills that every company needs. Let me tell you more:


Hairnets and Hand Sanitizer

My wife, daughters and I showed up and received a brief training session and mandatory hairnets. Then we entered the fellowship hall of our church, which had been converted in to an FDA-regulated food production facility. With about 80 other volunteers, we took turns pouring rice, vitamin powder, soy, and vegetables into plastic bags. We labeled, sealed, and packed the bags, which soon will be shipped around the world to feed people who are hungry and undernourished.



Focus on the Food

There are thousands of charitable relief organizations around the world. The non-profit that led us in our food packing is tightly-focused. They have designed a meal that is highly nutritious, portable, acceptable in different cultures, and easily prepared. The cost for this meal is just twenty-two cents ($0.22) per serving.

Church groups and other volunteers sign up to pack the meals, and over 100 different organizations distribute the meals around the world. The non-profit’s operational model is a case study in focus, and allows other relief organizations to deliver nutrition to their targeted geographies or people in an extremely efficient manner.


Outsourcing to the Experts

If you run an IT company, you would be irresponsible to make your own office furniture. Someone else does that job efficiently and reliably, and it is not your core business. If you do it yourself, it ultimately means you are less able to help customers with your primary expertise.

Technology and transportation have multiplied everyone’s potential customer base, which has bred increasing specialization. There are more and more functions and tasks that can be outsourced to focused vendors. As I saw firsthand last week, this trend is advancing in every sector and disrupting/advancing how all types of organizations get the job done.

Because you can outsource, does that mean that you should? Not necessarily. We’ll look at different factors in the build-or-buy decision in coming articles (sign up here if you’d like to receive them).

The key point here is that for just about any business problem you solve, somebody somewhere has figured out a great solution which they are probably selling at an affordable price.

(Challenge: If you can think of an exception to the previous paragraph, send me a note and let’s talk about it. If we can’t brainstorm an affirmative answer, I’ll send you a free copy of Same Side Selling.)


Making the Greatest Impact

The group that led us to assemble the meals is called Feed My Starving Children (website). Because of their focus, and the decisions of others to outsource meal production, there are fewer hungry people around the world.

Your company’s mission may seem more modest, but whatever your charge you want to get there as efficiently as possible. Sometimes that means improving your ability, and increasingly that means finding the partners who can get the job done far better and more efficiently than you ever could. 


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