Quick, easy, and nutritious were the thoughts behind Midwest Food Bank developing a single serving, microwaveable version of our Tender Mercies meal.
"For kids or people living alone, the family-size bag of Tender Mercies wasn't the right fit," says Gail Thorson, Tender Mercies coordinator for MFB. "Because the product can be made in the microwave it is also easier for kids."
Since June of 2020 about 300,000 single-serving bags have been produced from the machine at the MFB Morton, where the Tender Mercies Program is housed. About 40 bags a minute is the production rate, but the journey to get there meant working through many details. Sourcing ingredients such as instant rice and making sure the single-serving bag of TM is consistent with the flavor of the current product was a high priority.
"There were a lot of taste testers involved," says Gail.
Other considerations included analyzing nutritional information, accurate cooking instructions, evaluating the packaging for cost-effectiveness and durability. These single-serving bags will be put in backpacks at schools so they need to withstand those conditions.
The family-size bag of TM can be produced by hand or on the TM machine. After looking at the details, the TM machine was the best option for the single-serving size. "The machine can measure the smaller amounts with accuracy and speed," says Gail.
Parts were then ordered for the machine, and Gail and volunteers learned how to change out parts so production could begin. Finally, the bags were ready to be distributed, and 50 single-serving bags make up a box at a cost of $10. Keeping the cost low and the nutrition high has always been the goal of the MFB Tender Mercies meal. They consist of rice, pre-cooked pinto beans, fortified chicken seasoning, and soy protein. This single-serving bag is another way MFB helps provide nutritious food to the pantries we serve. To learn more about Tender Mercies or to donate, click here.