Tropical Storm Harvey briefly closes Martin Preferred Foods

by Erica Shaffer
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Hurricane
The foodservice distributor was required to close for the first time in the company’s 74-year history.
 
HOUSTON – Martin Preferred Foods, a Houston-based foodservice distributor, closed its facilities Aug. 28 as Harvey, which had been downgraded to a tropical storm, hammered the city. “MPF’s physical facilities are fine,” the company said in a statement. “Our campus is located on the highest ground in the City of Houston, and the area has been spared any flooding, power loss, or damage. However, like most parts of Houston, access to the MPF plants is severely restricted from all directions due to flooding on major roadways.”

MPF, which employs 375 people, opened back up for business Aug. 29, for those employees who were safely able to travel to work.

“We will be open Tuesday, albeit on a limited basis,” said President and COO Jeffrey Tapick. “We have stressed to all of our employees that their safety and the safety of their families is the most important consideration. If they are unsure about the safety of travel then they absolutely should be safe and stay home. But for those nearby employees who are able to safely travel to work, we will be open and doing whatever we can to supply product to those who need it.

“Given our location close to downtown, we believe we can help serve a great need to the places housing evacuees by opening our doors and supplying chicken, meat, and groceries, and at a minimum that is what we intend to do,” Tapick said.

Despite being officially closed on Monday afternoon, Tapick, along with MPF CFO Charles Poirier, MPF director of security Robert Olivo and a handful of MPF employees who live close by were able to safely reach the MPF Houston facility and open the warehouse to supply provisions to nearby customers and first responders.

“We have a number of customers in downtown Houston, including large hotels and the convention center who are housing thousands of emergency first responders and flood evacuees, and they are running low on food,” Tapick said. “Some of those customers reached out to us yesterday and asked if there was any way we could provide some relief. Those of us who could safely get to work were able to open the warehouse and provide chicken, meat, and groceries for those most in need.”

In addition, MPF employees also dropped off a donation of beef fajitas to a nearby Houston Police Department facility Monday afternoon. “Our brave first responders have been working tirelessly for days to keep us safe and out of harm’s way,” Tapick said. “This was the very least we could do to show our support and appreciation, and there’s a lot more where that came from.”

“I am so proud of our team,” said MPF Chairman and CEO Michael Tapick. “This was just a small gesture, but we think it shows how we can help our community in the coming days, weeks, and months as we rebuild from this disaster.

“We are firmly committed to doing whatever we can to support the victims of this disaster, and to help rebuild our community,” Tapick said.

Martin Preferred Foods began preparations for the storm as early as Aug. 23 when the company’s Emergency Preparedness Team developed contingency plans to supply customers in Texas and the rest of the United States. Product categories and varieties the company services include high-end chicken cuts, diced and sliced; high-end beef cuts, veal, pork, lamb and wild game. In 2016, Martin Preferred Foods counted more than 2,400 independent foodservice locations among its customer base.

“In advance of the storm, MPF shipped excess product to its Distribution Centers in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Austin, and San Antonio, so that we may continue to service our customers for the next several days, notwithstanding the shutdown of the Houston facility,” the company explained. “In addition, we have made contingency plans with backup suppliers located in Dallas and Central Texas to help cover our further processing needs if necessary.”

Harvey made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast as a Category 4 storm before weakening. But the National Weather Service reported life-threatening flash floods continuing across southeast Texas. Weak steering currents have caused the storm to settle over Texas, which is expected to receive as much as 50 inches of rain in some areas. The National Weather Service said three-hour rainfall totals on Aug. 27 exceeded 12 inches over southern Houston.

“As an expansive area of southeast Texas has seen 20 to 30 inches of rainfall due to Harvey, the grounds are beyond saturation leading to abundant runoff,” the National Weather Service explained in a briefing. “Consequently, life-threatening flash floods are possible with any additional heavy rainfall.

“The threat will continue to expand eastward in time into southwestern Louisiana as Harvey drifts toward the upper Texas coast. Additionally, as is common with any tropical circulation, brief tornadoes may form anywhere from Galveston, Texas, eastward to just south of New Orleans, Louisiana.”

So, while Houston braces for more rain, Martin Preferred Foods is urging everyone in affected areas to remain safe.

“Our hearts are heavy for those of our MPF family, our customers, and people across Houston and the Gulf Coast region, who have suffered from this natural disaster,” the company said. “We are firm in our commitment to helping our team members, our customers and our community rebuild in the coming days, weeks and months. We will do everything possible to help during this time of need.”

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