For several years Gavin Whittle of Astoria, N.Y., wrestled with supply chain problems in the Middle East. As an officer in the U.S. Navy deployed in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, his mission was to protect the lifeblood of the local economy and coalition military operations: oil. In civilian life, Gavin is dealing with supply chains of a different kind: fresh produce.
A senior manager of operations for FreshDirect, and a students in the College’s MRSC program, his new mission is to get fresh, locally sourced food to the kitchen tables of customers in the greater New York City metro region, including Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey and Deleware. FreshDirect is an online grocer launched in 2002, providing fresh food at comparatively lower prices than many local supermarkets.
“We order online but source our products locally, including dairy and meat,” Gavin said. “The relationships we form with farmers in the area is a big part of what we do: local sourcing drives costs down and give more money to the farmer. Our customers get a better product with more shelf life. It’s a win-win.”
After high school, Gavin enlisted in Marine Corps and moved on to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, through a secretary of the Navy nomination. He graduated from Annapolis in 2006 with an English major and completed three deployments in the Middle East, plus a year-long staff assignment living in Bahrain.
“We were working with long supply chains with lot of ships involved. You see the role fossil fuels play in our way of life. But at some point it’s going to end. It’s a good to time to start planning start the transition to the post cheap-energy world.”
While transitioning from the military, Gavin began to search educational opportunities to put his supply chain knowledge to work.
“You can’t change way we eat food without policy change – and you can’t create new systems without understanding whole picture. There really wasn’t anything that existed that was interdisciplinary in approach. The MRSC program brings different perspectives from all walks of life.”