How a West Michigan Company Plans to Use Its Supply Chain Network to Help Ukrainian Refugees

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BYRON CENTER, Mich. — A West Michigan company is working with an international nonprofit to help meet the basic needs of Ukrainian refugees.

“During a crisis, we come together and ship as one,” said Sharron Fleener, director of export and regulatory services for SpartanNash.

According to Fleener, the company is particularly well placed to help in the Ukraine crisis.

SpartanNash’s largest international customer, the U.S. military, relies on the company to stock Commissars and exchanges with popular groceries that service members and their families want.

“We’re like all-in-one vendors that take it to the actual warehouse that then takes it to every store,” Fleener said.

During the 48 years of partnership between the two entities, Fleener says a global supply chain network filled with contacts and special authorizations has been created, which has reduced the delivery time from 120 days to 28 days or less in case of emergency.

Last week, when Russia invaded Ukraine and forced hundreds of thousands to flee, SpartanNash made a few calls and started collecting money and other needy items like diapers, energy bars and water, in the hope that help can be provided quickly. .

SpartanNash also partnered with Convoy of Hope, an international non-profit organization with on-the-ground connections in Poland, to get supplies from the ports into the hands of the refugees who fled there.

“Every time you hear some kind of tragedy or crisis like this, especially when I go to this area anyway, your heart bleeds, especially in the name of freedom,” Fleener said.

SpartanNash hopes to ship the first container by next Tuesday.

Fleener says the process takes about 12-15 days from start to finish. While the company has also dealt with logistical issues caused by COVID-19, Fleener says it’s unclear if these delays are occurring in a crisis situation.

“No matter what happens, we’re not going to stop,” Fleener said. “Even though we are here in the United States, we are here with you.”

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