Fresno EOC Enterprise partnership feeds kids and creates jobs in the Central Valley

Posted on Jul 15, 2019

In just one year of pizza production, Fresno EOC Food Services was able to deliver 137,211 personal size pizzas to students in Fresno, Fowler and Firebaugh school districts, as well as local water parks. The project began as a partnership with a local business and created eight new positions.

“By utilizing our existing resources and expertise in food and transportation services, we were able to use our capacity on a business accelerator project with a small business owner to meet a need in our community, while boosting our local economy and creating new jobs,” Michelle L.Tutunjian, Enterprise Officer said.

Since the success of their first business partnership, Food Services’ will produce more pizzas to schools and are expected to double production in 2019 - 2020. This summer marks one year since Fresno EOC launched its’ Enterprise Division and soon after piloted the “Pizza Project” in the summer of 2018.

”It makes me feel wonderful being a part of this project, Cora Fluker, Food Production Worker said. “It’s not like we are working for a corporate company a couple of states over; we are actually giving back to the community of Fresno County.”

 

With the support of Transit Systems providing safe and reliable transportation services, Food Services was able to deliver quality meals, expand its facilities and create more jobs for local residents. Partnerships like this align with the agency’s vision as an entrepreneurial agency, bridging the gap to self-sufficiency while providing opportunities and resources for community members.

“Without the pizza, I wouldn’t have a job,” Joshua Burnham, Food Production Worker said.

”The pizza gave us the opportunity to expand. If we can keep producing and keep going hopefully we can move into grocery stores and other water parks.”

In addition to job creation, staff are excited to see all the pizzas delivered to students are made with fresh and homemade ingredients, providing healthier options for kids.

“We aren’t feeding them greasy fattening food.  Everything from the sauce, to the pepperoni, to the cheese, the crust, it’s all fresh,” Burnham said. “It’s good and healthy for the kids, but they can enjoy having a pizza.”

The Pizza Project has opened the door for more partnerships with local businesses and allowed Food Services to become self-sufficient as they continue delivering meals at low or no cost through various community programs. Of the program’s many initiatives are the Food Express Bus and Summer Food Service Program, providing free meals to combat hunger among children in Fresno County during summer and winter school breaks.

“Food Services is in a unique position because we do more on a fee-for-service basis and with contracts,” Jon Escobar, Food Services Director said. “We can use funds from projects like this and put it back into the program so we can supply more meals for those who really need them.”

The future direction for Food Services is to build a USDA inspection kitchen, providing the space needed to expand its current facilities and continue creating enterprise opportunities for the community while addressing food insecurity and access to healthy food.

Learn more about Fresno EOC Food Services