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At The Frozen Pizza Factory That Never Closed: Social Distancing In A Tent

Carolyn Mendel, a General Mills plant manager in Wellston, Ohio, says she has compared notes on workplace safety with a rival frozen food maker nearby.
Carolyn Mendel, a General Mills plant manager in Wellston, Ohio, says she has compared notes on workplace safety with a rival frozen food maker nearby.

Carolyn Mendel oversees a team of about 1,000 people at a frozen food factory in Wellston, Ohio. And as demand for frozen pizzas has soared, the factory has been running nonstop.

"We like to consider ourselves the home of Totino's Pizza and Pizza Rolls," she says. "We have seen a lot of feedback from our consumers that the Totino's line is getting them through quarantine."

Mendel has been in manufacturing for 25 years and with General Mills for the last 15. Rarely has she felt her work is more important than during the past several weeks.

The plant has adopted safeguards to protect workers — erecting a tent in the parking lot so employees can maintain "social distance" during breaks and providing two weeks of paid leave for anyone who needs it. As many factories are improvising and making decisions on the fly, Mendel is sharing these social distancing tips with a rival frozen food manufacturer nearby.

Her factory has continued to operate around the clock, even postponing a week of scheduled maintenance to keep pace with soaring demand. Mendel says some of the plant workers have adopted a slogan: "Pizza to the people."

"They are just taking a ton of pride in what they're doing," she says. "They feel like they're serving the country by coming into the plant and grinding out those pizzas and pizza rolls."

Read more stories in Faces Of The Coronavirus Recession.

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