Blog

Women holding handful of corn

Feeding a Community a Thousand Miles Away

With almost half of its population unable to meet minimum caloric requirements, Zambia has one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. Many of the people affected are women and children. Omega Foods, a Zambian women-owned grains company, noticed that there was an opportunity to provide nutritious and safe grains, and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the area. Established in 2015, Omega Foods now produces several nutritious staple products including millet, maize and sorghum, and focuses on nourishing women and children in the community.

Supporting Omega Foods in their journey to produce more affordable, safe and healthy food is Hershey Senior Analyst - Growth & Strategy Lauren Hall. Lauren joined Omega Foods as their volunteer Client Lead in May 2021 and has helped oversee several projects since she began. “Lauren has been instrumental in making sure our projects are successful,” said Omega Foods founder and managing director Justina Opit. “I am so grateful to have her as our Client Lead!”

To date, Lauren has overseen the completion of a plant design review project and is currently managing a good manufacturing practices project that will improve Omega’s food safety and quality processes. “Our partnerships with PFS volunteers, TechnoServe, and USAID, play a valuable role in our success,” said Justina. “The support offered to me and my staff as we focus on improving our business is key to our growth. We look forward to continuing our partnership!”

headshot of man with glasses

Q+A with Hershey Sr. Director of Manufacturing Marc Rinaldi

 
Please share a little about yourself.

I have worked for The Hershey Company for 34 years leading manufacturing and supply chain operations in the US, Mexico, and China. I am currently the supply chain integration lead, supporting the integration of Dots Pretzels and Pretzels Inc businesses.

What is your main motivation for volunteering with PFS?

The opportunity to share my expertise and give back through mentoring drew me to PFS.

What was your experience like on your first PFS project?

My first project was a facility layout project with a company called Taste Cocoa Ghana. The project was relatively quick, consisting of a few meetings and reviewing facility layout documents. I was surprised by the ease in which Taste Cocoa Ghana and I connected, shared our backgrounds, and began having open dialogue about the project. It was truly a great experience. I have since worked on other projects and am currently supporting a project with Agripreneur in Zambia.

What was your favorite part of the project?

My favorite part was getting to meet all the people at Taste Cocoa Ghana and to experience their passion and willingness to learn. If you’re considering volunteering, do not hesitate any longer. The experience is very rewarding and we all have something to share from our unique experiences. I have already started my second and third projects and they are just as rewarding as the first!

Rounds of cheese on a shelf next to milk machine

Got Cheese?

 

Established in 2003, Shambani Milk is a dairy processing company located in Morogoro, Tanzania. Shambani aggregates milk from roughly 250 smallholder dairy farmers and produces several products, including fresh pasteurized milk, sour milk, and flavored yogurt. The company has partnered with Partners in Food Solutions (PFS), international development nonprofit TechnoServe and USAID for more than three years, working on a range of projects from marketing strategy review to HACCP program implementation, ISO certification, and new product development. To further diversify their product portfolio, Shambani Milk reached out to PFS and its network of expert volunteers for guidance on developing a new product – mozzarella cheese.

“Adding mozzarella to our product line is important to our business for several reasons,” said Shambani Co owner and Director of R&D Florent Nguma. “Cheese is one of the highest value dairy products with a good profit margin and that is what our company wants to focus on,” he said. We’ve also seen an increase in demand for cheese at hotels and restaurants due to the growth in local tourism.” To support Shambani Milk with this new endeavor, PFS assembled a team of product development experts including cheese expert Gert van den Hoven from DSM.

Growing up on a milk farm and spending several decades working with cheese in various capacities, Gert was the perfect fit to support Shambani Milk on this project. “In my role at DSM, I help cheese factories create the optimal recipes for their cheese brands, optimize the cheese process, and ensure it is sustainable and cost effective,” he said. “I found it easy and enjoyable to contribute my experience and guide Shambani forward in their mozzarella cheese journey. For me it was a small effort, but for them it made a world of difference.”

Most of Gert’s previous cheese experience involved working with European cheese companies. This project with Shambani was his first cheese development project in Tanzania. The biggest difference for Gert was the scale and equipment available. “The differences in infrastructure required parts of the mozzarella cheese making process to be manual at Shambani,” he said. “This required a different approach and more practical solutions.” Gert also had to work with a more variable milk source than he’s used to. “The varying milk quality proved to be somewhat challenging, but everyone on the team was eager to learn and was motivated to address quality gaps and improve production quality. This made the project super fun and gave me motivation to keep supporting the client.”

Over the past year, the team has conducted several tests including taste, smell, texture, appearance, pH, and shelf life. “We’re very grateful for Gert’s support on this project,” said Florent. “We’ve learned so much from his vast experience and have been implementing his suggestions throughout the project.” Shambani and the team are still working on perfecting the recipe and are excited to share this product with the community in the near future.

women headshot

Q+A with Bühler Project Manager Valerie Brunner

 

Please share a little about yourself and your role at Bühler.
My name is Valerie Brunner and I am a project manager of lab analytics at Bühler with a food science background.

What is your main motivation for volunteering with PFS?
I like volunteering with PFS because it’s a great opportunity to help improve the global food processing value chain and provide safe and nutritional food for everyone.

What has been your favorite part of volunteering with PFS so far?
My favorite part of volunteering is working with my other team members. The exchange between the volunteers, the PFS staff and the different companies, cultures, and countries is really enriching.

You’re supporting a lab set up project in Kenya. How is your volunteer work different from your Bühler lab work?
In my day job at Bühler, we have the opportunity to work in a fully equipped and functioning laboratory for all kinds of analyses. Compared to the PFS project, the client only had minimal equipment available. Therefore, establishing a full understanding of what the client needed regarding their processes and products was critical.

Did you face any challenges during your lab set up project? If so, how did you overcome them?
The greatest challenge for me was overcoming the differences between our labs and understanding that the client didn’t have access to certain items that I take for granted at my lab. Volunteering with PFS was a new experience for me and it forced me to think outside the box and come up with unique solutions that were valuable to the client based on their infrastructure.

Women writing on papers in office

Bühler Volunteers Provide Virtual Trainings to Improve Health and Food Safety in Nigeria

 

Fastizers Food and Confectionary is one of Nigeria’s fastest growing consumer goods companies and is known for their premium short-bread cookies, biscuits and other sweets. The company began by making sweets out of a home kitchen ten years ago and now distributes their products across the country to 26 different states and counting. Fastizers joined Partners in Food Solutions in 2020 and has since completed over nine projects including product development, equipment installation, and recently an occupational health and safety project. Bühler’s Quality, Health, and Safety Manager Alan Galloway worked with Fastizers to develop their health and safety manual.

Alan has five years of experience as a quality, health and safety manager at Bühler. “I really enjoy my role and love changing people’s perception of health and safety,” he said. “I believe by better educating people around the world on health and safety (H&S), we can all achieve something great.” Working with his Bühler colleagues Lindewe Segalwe and Sorana Ionita, Alan and the team were able to learn about what health and safety means in Nigeria. Alan said one of the most interesting parts of the project was discovering how another country handles their health and safety, and what laws and regulations they have in place. “Sometimes we had to ask some difficult questions,” Alan said, “but overall it helped us create a better health and safety environment at Fastizers.”

Balogun Ismail Sola, a quality control analyst and health and safety officer at Fastizers, worked with the Bühler volunteer team to develop a H&S manual for the company. “It was quite an interesting and fulfilling experience working with Alan, Lindiwe, and Sorana,” he said. Throughout the project, Alan and the team provided technical support, virtual trainings, and helped identify gaps in Fastizers H&S plans where they could improve. Using learnings from the project, Balogun was able to develop a new health and safety approach that the company will implement moving forward. “For example,” said Balogun, “we will start doing continuous risk assessments and policy statements in occupational, health and safety.” The H&S manual will help the Fastizers align on all aspects of safety across the company so they can better control hazards and risks. Balogun said his favorite part of the project was the virtual training that Alan facilitated himself because it was incredibly helpful and insightful. He will take those important lessons with him.