Nacogdoches is among the Texas cities that will benefit from a multi-million initiative by food companies JBS USA and Pilgrims to aid combating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week, the company announced a national $50 million initiative that will pump $6.5 million into Texas in response to the pandemic and in future investment.

Pilgrim’s operates chicken processing facilities in Nacogdoches, Lufkin and other Texas communities. Company leaders intend to work with local communities as part of the project, which the companies are calling Hometown Strong.

“Our success as a company is dependent on the success of the communities where we live and work,” said Fabio Sandri, Pilgrim’s interim president and CEO. “We want to be a good neighbor, and we believe this is an opportunity to move our hometowns forward in a positive way.”

The funds will be allocated to the projects identified by the end of the year, according to a statement from the company.

“Nationally, the $50 million investment ... will include donations to alleviate food insecurity, strengthen long-term community infrastructure and well-being and support COVID-19 emergency response and relief efforts,” according to a statement on the investment.

“It’s very important to us that we make lasting investments to benefit our team members and our neighbors,” said Tim Schellpeper, JBS USA Fed Beef president. “We are humbled to partner with community leaders to ensure our contributions will make a difference now and in the future.”

The Pilgrim’s processing plant in Nacogdoches is the second largest employer in the county after Stephen F. Austin State University, with 1,451 workers, according to a January 2019 survey of employers by the Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation.

In Lufkin, Pilgrim’s employs some 1,300 people, making it the second largest employer after the Lufkin Independent School District, according to the Lufkin Economic Development Corporation.

Corporate spokesperson Nikki Richardson said how much money goes to projects in each community is based on the the company’s role in that place.

“The amounts are determined based on our footprint in the area and how many team members we have there,” she wrote in an email.

In terms of what projects get funded, Richardson said the initiative isn’t taking anything off the board.

“The core pillars of the Hometown Strong investment initiative are fairly broad because we want projects to be determined based on the needs of each individual community,” she wrote. “Our hope is that these contributions will have a lasting and meaningful impact in the communities where our team members live and work. This investment will not be used for Pilgrim’s or JBS facility upgrades.”

As of Friday, money has been funneled into nine states in which the companies operated — Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Mississippi and Georgia — and more states will be included as the program progresses, according to Cameron Bruett, the head of corporate affairs for JBS USA and Pilgrim’s.

So far, $1 million has been pledged to the completion of the Worthington Field House in Worthington Minnesota, which will be named the JBS Field House and Recreation Center as a result. None of the other states included in the program had released details about specific projects as of Thursday.

Texas is home to seven Pilgrim’s and JBS operated facilities located in Cactus, Dalhart, Lufkin, Mount Pleasant, Nacogdoches, Pittsburg and Waco.

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