COVID-19 has forced changes to the way federal prisoners are fed. And for one Ackley-based company that means an increase in business.
Family Traditions Meat Company is working on hiring 15 people to work full-time packaging bread for prisoners. Facility Manager Tanner Heikens said he was contacted by a Marengo, Iowa-based company to help fulfill a federal contract assembling pre-made meals.
“Due to COVID-19, the way prisoners are fed has changed,” Heikens said. “Prisoners are no longer being allowed to prepare meals.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered businesses and ordered social distancing, the Marengo company was preparing 75,000 to 100,000 meals every week. Now, it's producing 3 million pre-packaged meals each week. The increase in demand forced the company to put as many hands as possible into other aspects of packaging the meals and left an opening for Family Traditions to fill.
The bread arrives at Family Traditions by truck – 17,342 loaves at a time, 396,000 slices. Family Traditions employees will be packaging the bread - four slices at a time.
Packaging machines, brought in by the Marengo company are conveyor-like, Heikens said. Bread is put in place on one end of the conveyor, and comes out fully packaged at the other end. The packages are placed in crates and loaded back onto the trucks. Each machines requires seven employees to run it efficiently.
Two of the packaging machines have been assembled in Ackley and when they're fully staffed with two shifts per day, Family Traditions will be able to produce 120,000 packages every day.
Shifts are running from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 2:30 to 11 p.m. Wages range from $10 to $12 an hour. Heikens said the temporary positions are considered full-time, and those hired will receive paid time off and health insurance.
“The work is not difficult, but it is fast,” Heikens said.
For more information about the positions contact Heikens at 641-847-8611 or stop by the office at 405 Sherman for an application. Heikens can also be reached through the Family Traditions Meat Company Facebook page.