As the world’s leading manufacturer of personal care products, Procter & Gamble Co. is pretty busy these days, to put it mildly.
In the midst of the new coronavirus crisis, the company has been ramping up production of much-needed items such as hand sanitizer, protective face masks, and of course, toilet paper, which is where its Box Elder County plant comes in.
P&G’s Charmin brand toilet tissue is one of the primary products manufactured at its large facility in Bear River City, and company representatives say the local plant is churning it out as fast as it can to help alleviate a persistent shortage.
Loren Fanroy, a spokesperson for P&G’s Family Care division at its headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, said Charmin and other products in the division are being produced and shipped at “record-high levels at all of our manufacturing sites, including our Box Elder plant.”
“We have our sites running 24/7,” Fanroy wrote in an email to the Leader on Friday. “Demand continues to outpace supply, but we are working diligently to get product to our retailers as fast as humanly possible so everyone can continue to Enjoy the Go,” Fanroy wrote, referring to the company’s tagline for Charmin, “Enjoy the Go.”
She explained that P&G is “prioritizing our bestselling sizes to maximize the amount of product we can ship to retailers, and we remain focused on making sure our products are available when and where people shop during this highly dynamic situation.”
In January, the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development announced that it had reached a deal with P&G in which the company would expand the Box Elder plant and add up to 221 new jobs at the site over the next 20 years. In return, the state would give the company up to $4.2 million in tax rebates if it meets certain performance criteria under the agreement.
In a press release announcing the expansion and agreement with the state, Joe Tomon, plant manager at the Box Elder facility, said at the time that “our expansion is a result of consumer and customer demand.”
That was before the COVID-19 virus took over the country, causing panic buying of toilet paper and other household products that has driven demand through the roof. While the expansion isn’t happening quickly enough to handle that immediate spike in demand, it could set up the plant to help handle such events in the future.
Other P&G facilities around the world are working to increase production of hand sanitizer and face masks. In an open letter posted on the company’s website last week, Chairman, President and CEO David Taylor wrote that new production lines for hand sanitizer have been installed at five of its manufacturing sites around the world, bringing P&G’s production capacity to at least 45,000 liters per week when fully operational.
Taylor also wrote that work is under way to produce critically needed face masks at “nearly a dozen” P&G sites globally.
“We’re up and running in already in China,” he wrote. “We have teams working to install capacity in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, and will quickly begin production in the coming weeks.”
While the Box Elder plant is not involved in making hand sanitizer or face masks, “Our employees at the Box Elder plant are focused on delivering Charmin and Bounty (paper towels) to meet the current demand,” a company spokesperson wrote in response to an inquiry on Friday.
With net sales of $67.7 billion in 2019, P&G is the world’s largest company in the household products and personal care industry. It is currently ranked No. 146 on the Fortune Global 500 list.
Just before noon last Friday, some 30 children and parents were waiting at a bus stop along Main Street in Tremonton, even though classes were canceled.
Right on schedule at 11:50 a.m., a yellow school bus pulled up to the stop. The door opened to reveal the familiar faces of Julie Scothern and JD Scott, who were making their regular rounds from Petersboro through Beaver Dam and on to Tremonton. But instead of picking up the kids to take them to school, Scothern and Scott were there to deliver free lunches for the day and breakfast for the next morning.
One by one, the kids stepped up to receive their meals – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fresh fruit, cookies, milk and other items they are used to getting at school during the day.
“Some of them, their parents both work so it’s hard to make sure they get a good lunch,” Scothern said. “We’re here to help with that.”
While classes may be out until further notice, bus drivers and kitchen staff in the Box Elder School District have been staying busy the last couple of weeks, preparing and delivering meals for students stuck at home because of precautions taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Scott, who has been a bus driver for the district for more than 30 years, said his route has been delivering more than 130 free lunches daily on average and about 90 breakfasts. The temporary program has been giving meals to anyone up to age 18.
“We don’t turn anyone away,” he said. “One day we had a kid chase us down in the rain, and we stopped and took care of him. It turns out he had seven siblings, and we got them all lunches. It’s been a good thing that people have really needed.”
The program has been a big hit with kids and parents alike. During sunny weather on Friday, youngsters were romping about on the sidewalk and making fist-pump gestures to passing motorists, many of whom obliged by honking their horns as they drove by.
Britney Mills, who was at one of the stops with her four children – one who attends Garland Elementary and her preschool-age triplets – said that in addition to the benefit of getting the meals, it provided a small bit of socialization at a time when it’s hard to come by.
“We love it. The kids love it,” Mills said. “It’s kind of sad that it’s our only interaction, but it’s a nice to get out, especially when it’s sunny.”
The meal deliveries became so popular that by the last day of bus-stop deliveries on Friday, the district was providing significantly more meals than it would on a normal school day, District Superintendent Steve Carlsen said.
Carlsen said that while the district is pleased that so many kids have been getting the nutrition, the growing popularity of the program has made it necessary to make some changes so that it can continue, as the “soft closure” of local schools has been extended through at least May 1.
That means that starting Monday, April 6, meals will no longer be delivered to bus stops. Instead, kids can go to area schools to pick up their meals, including lunch for that day and breakfast for the following day, from 11 a.m. to noon. Breakfast will be available beginning Tuesday, April 7.
Since this week was already scheduled to be spring break, no meals are being provided this week.
Carlsen said the change was necessary “to ensure we have enough staff to prepare all of the meals required.
“We recognize that this may cause an inconvenience for families, and we will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as necessary,” he said.
Due to social distancing guidelines, parents are urged to remain in their vehicles when they take their kids to pick up meals. The kids have to be present to receive the meals in order to comply with federal food service program requirements.
Those with special diets will need to contact Candace Parr one day in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org. These meals can be picked up at Adele C. Young and Alice C. Harris Intermediate schools during the regular window of 11 a.m. to noon.
Bus-stop deliveries of school lunches and breakfasts have stopped, but meals will be provided curbside beginning Monday, April 6 from 11 a.m. to noon at schools throughout the Box Elder School District:
• Century Elementary (5820 N. 4800 W., Bear River City)
• McKinley Elementary (120 W. 500 S., Tremonton)
• Garland Elementary (450 S. 100 W., Garland)
• Fielding Elementary (50 W. Main St., Fielding)
• Alice C. Harris Intermediate (515 N. 800 W., Tremonton)
• Bear River High (1450 S. Main St., Garland)
• Snowville Elementary (160 N. Stone Road, Snowville)
• Park Valley (17845 N. 54000 W., Park Valley, Monday-Thursday)
• Discovery Elementary (820 N. 500 W., Brigham City)
• Mountain View Elementary (650 E. 700 S., Brigham City)
• Three Mile Creek Elementary (2625 S. 1050 W., Perry)
• Adele C. Young Intermediate (830 Law Dr., Brigham City)
• Box Elder Middle (18 S. 500 E., Brigham City)
• Box Elder High (380 S. 600 W., Brigham City)
As of 2 p.m. Monday, March 30, there were 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Bear River Health Department district, which covers Box Elder, Cache and Rich Counties. Visit www.tremontonleader.com for daily updates.
Box Elder County: 7 cases
Cache County: 6 cases
Rich County: 0 cases
Utah statewide: 806 cases; 16,003 people tested, 4 deaths
Due to medical privacy laws, more specific information regarding numbers of tests or confirmed cases is not available at this time.
Sources: Bear River Health Department, Utah Department of Health