Youth Apprentice innovation strengthens our commitment to community

April 23, 2024


We believe in putting people first. That means more than just caring for our customers, it means taking care of the communities where we live and work. More than 1,000 volunteers from over 20 companies around the Oshkosh area came together for the sixth time in September to help end hunger one scoop at a time during our annual food packing event, Feed the Body, Feed the Soul. With one in eight people and one in five children in the area not knowing where their next meal will come from, we partner with organizations such as Feeding America to help combat hunger.


Large group of volunteers wearing green shirts inside a building getting ready to pack rice for Feeding America

     Volunteers from the 2023 Feed the Body, Feed the Soul event. 


Oshkosh is committed to using continuous improvement strategies and processes to enhance existing efforts to close the poverty gap and build stronger communities. Each year we rent a space and partner with Feeding America to set up packing stations and pallets of food for volunteers to package into smaller bags that are then distributed to families in need in the local area. In 2022, we packaged 140,000 pounds of rice, but fell short of our 200,000 pound goal. While proud of the outcome, we wanted to do more. Our community engagement team had a vision to make the event better and faster for 2023, with a focus on hitting our packing target.

Team members developed a challenge to equip volunteers with more efficient tools and processes to use during our 2023 event. The challenge was later accepted by our engineering youth apprentices, a paid program we provided for high school seniors interested in a career in STEM.


The challenge to innovate

The apprentices were tasked with improving the scooping process and removing the need for electricity or a scale to weigh food. The ultimate goal was to design a method to package three pounds of dry food with a tolerance of ±0.2 pounds.

After a dozen design concepts, the team utilized a decision matrix along with user and customer feedback to select the final design, which included a funnel and bin shelf combination. They then leveraged computer aided design, requirements gathering, 3D printing and validation, manufacturing processes, cost negotiation and partnered with the community relations team to create the final design.

After months of work, it was time for their work to be put to the ultimate test and tackle 200,000 pounds of rice. Will the youth apprentices’ design measure up?


Male Oshkosh team member with three youth apprenticeship students, two male and one female

Pictured from left to right is Mike, senior program manager and youth apprentice funnel designers.

Feed the Body, Feed the Soul volunteers packing rice from a bucket into a silver funnel

Funnel and shelf combination design in action at the 2023 Feed the Body, Feed the Soul event. 

The results are in

Unlike previous years where volunteers had to guess the correct fill amount, move the bag to the scale and add or remove product as necessary until the correct weight was achieved, the funnel and shelf combination allowed volunteers to measure three pounds of rice quickly and effectively. The design eliminated the need and extra costs of scales, improved safety by eliminating power cords, reduced the amount of product spillage to maximize the amount of rice in each bag and reduced the number of volunteers needed at each table. Eliminating the need for power also allows the flexibility to scale up the event and the opportunity to host it at more locations, which supports our future goal of expanding the event into other communities across the country where we do business. 

The improved process allowed us to reach a record output, exceeding our 200,000 pound goal. 210,000 total pounds of rice was packed during the 2023 event, a 50% increase over the prior year. The process was so effective that we slowed down the last few shifts to ensure we had enough rice for the volunteers who signed up, meaning we could have potentially packed an even higher amount, something that remains top of mind as we set a bigger goal for future events. 

Our youth apprentice’s design was instrumental in helping us reach our millionth pound packed – totaling 1,099,000 pounds and equating to almost 916,000 meals served over the past six years from this event. 

Innovation and teamwork can transform tomorrow and reinforces that we are better together. 


Join our team

We’re proud to offer unique projects such as this to provide students the opportunity to gain experience and refine their skills to set them up for successful careers, while also making a difference in our community.

Ready to make a difference in people’s lives? Whether you’re a high school student, college student or a recent grad, it’s never too early to be part of a team that designs and builds vehicles and equipment that keep people safe, handle tough jobs and build communities.

Join us in transforming tomorrow.