The Lineage Hardship Fund: Supporting Our Team with Respect and Empathy
January 16, 2024
Lineage’s commitment to its team members took a significant step forward with the creation of the Lineage Hardship Fund. Initiated as a grass-roots response to natural disasters and taken to a new level by the unexpected trials of the COVID-19 pandemic, this fund is our way of standing by our team during tough times. In many ways, the Hardship Fund was a direct precursor to the launch of the Lineage Foundation for Good, an independent nonprofit aimed at reducing food waste and fighting food insecurity around the world. What started as a timely response to emergency pandemic situations, has now grown into something much bigger, a vital resource for Lineage team members and their families if they should face a variety of serious personal and/or financial challenges.
From Rapid Response to Structured Support: The Evolution of the Lineage Hardship Fund
The Lineage Hardship Fund, in more or less its current form, was created as a rapid response approach to help Lineage team members in the heat of the COVID-19 crisis. Our team members across the network faced unprecedented challenges. They were essential workers on the frontlines, playing a crucial role in ensuring the uninterrupted supply of food around the world. Yet, the pandemic's economic impact didn’t spare them.
Jeff Rivera, Chief Operating Officer and one of the central figures in the creation of the Hardship Fund, reflects on this period: "The Hardship Fund is the ultimate example of servant leadership. It’s how we truly live our values. I’ve had exposure to many individuals and families who are going through tragedies, and it’s amazing that the Lineage Foundation for Good is there to help when they need it the most." In a quick response to these real-time crises, Lineage leaders created a system that was cross-functional and worked through our existing payroll systems. Site leaders would identify Lineage team members experiencing severe financial distress, and the executive leadership team approved the support, allowing for the coordination of direct payments to the team members in need.
One of the early priorities when creating the Lineage Foundation for Good was to take this process and establish a formal, accessible system to provide tax-free financial assistance to Lineage team members in times of crisis. With the launch of the Foundation in summer 2021, the Hardship Fund transitioned from an informal gesture of goodwill to a structured, non-profit program capable of providing tax-free assistance to Lineage team members in need—a change that not only streamlined the process, but also expanded its reach and impact.
Empowering Team Members: The Hardship Fund’s Role Today
Today, the Lineage Hardship Fund operates as one of the essential pillars of the Lineage Foundation for Good, providing a crucial resource for Lineage team members facing unexpected challenges. The Fund has evolved into a well-structured and widely recognized program, capable of responding to a vast range of emergencies.
The Fund now provides vital support in areas such as housing insecurity, unexpected healthcare costs from medical emergencies, escape from domestic violence, relocation support in cases of natural disasters and/or geopolitical crises and much more.
The process for accessing the Fund is designed to be straightforward and respectful, aligning with Lineage's core values of trust and respect. Lineage team members initiate their requests through discussions with supervisors or HR representatives, and each application is fairly and transparently reviewed by a dedicated Foundation for Good committee.
"Our goal is to offer a system where Lineage team members can confidently seek help, restoring their dignity during unexpected tough times and reestablishing their self-sufficiency," says Hannah Hoskins, Executive Director of the Lineage Foundation for Good, “It’s all about liberation.” This approach ensures the Hardship Fund serves as a supportive bridge for Lineage team members in need.
The Hardship Fund Reflects Who We Are as a OneLineage Family
The Lineage Hardship Fund’s evolution from a timely pandemic response to a foundational support system is a clear marker of our commitment to our people. Impacting over 600 Lineage team members since 2020, it's more than aid; it's a lifeline and a beacon of hope in the shadow of life’s unexpected challenges. As the Hardship Fund grows, the mission remains to offer timely, tangible support to members of the Lineage team who need help getting over a major financial hurdle that life has put in their way. We say we are a OneLineage family and we are proud to live out that commitment through this essential program.