Restaurant Chains, Food Companies Step Up Harvey Assistance -- Update

By Julie Jargon, Annie Gasparro and Heather Haddon Features Dow Jones Newswires

Food companies stepped up assistance to people affected by Tropical Storm Harvey on Wednesday, feeding emergency workers and donating meals to shelters while also working to reopen restaurants and grocery stores.

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Some 130 McDonald's Corp. restaurants around Houston closed as Harvey dumped record rain on the city this week. Those that had reopened by Wednesday were donating bottled water to the Red Cross and providing free meals to police and other emergency workers, the burger giant said.

Yum Brands Inc, the parent of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, said many of its restaurants remained closed but that all of its employees were safe. The company wouldn't give a precise number of restaurants or employees affected. Yum, too, donated food to evacuees and first responders.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. is delivering more than 50,000 pounds of food to relief organizations, including chicken, tortillas, lettuce, tomatoes, beans, steak and bottled water. The burrito maker is also feeding volunteers staffing a Red Cross telethon on Wednesday.

Chipotle said it is too soon to estimate the storm's impact on its own operations. Some of its restaurants in and around Houston are closed, while others have reopened. Employees will be paid for any work they miss while restaurants are closed due to the storm, a spokesman said.

Grocer Kroger Co. is providing food, water and toiletries to rescue organizations, shelters and first responders to the relief effort. The Cincinnati-based company had sent a mobile pharmacy to help refill prescriptions, provide immunizations and perform health screenings.

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HEB Grocery Co. has distributed more than 10,000 meals, 39 truckloads of water and 45,000 bags of ice in hard-hit areas, a spokeswoman said.

Packaged food companies such as General Mills Inc. and Mondelez International Inc. are also sending thousands of cases of food that won't require cooking or spoil without cold storage.

General Mills is sending more than $500,000 worth of foods including Epic jerky and Nature Valley granola bars. Mondelez is donating several thousand cases of Wheat Thins, Honey Maid graham crackers and other snacks.

Campbell Soup Co. is sending four truckloads of soup, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and V8 juices, and several more trucks full of Plum Organics baby food. Kraft Heinz sent Planters nuts, and Capri Sun drinks. Hershey Co. sent Krave beef jerky.

These and other companies that sell canned food and boxed meals have in the past seen a boost in sales in regions affected by big storms as residents stock up on food and turn to meals that don't require a lot of prep work. At the same time, if grocery stores stay closed for many days after a natural disaster, food makers can take a hit.

"It's much too early to know what the impact may be, as rescue and recovery efforts are still ongoing," a Mondelez spokesman said.

Write to Julie Jargon at julie.jargon@wsj.com, Annie Gasparro at annie.gasparro@wsj.com and Heather Haddon at heather.haddon@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 30, 2017 15:18 ET (19:18 GMT)