POCATELLO — As with most businesses in the time of COVID-19, Amy’s Kitchen has had to come up with some unique ways to handle obstacles caused by the novel coronavirus.

But the company’s Pocatello plant has maintained its commitment to its employees and to the community it calls home.

That means more safety measures, remote working for some employees, donations to local food banks and a lot more. On top of that, the Pocatello facility is hiring up to 50 more workers to keep up with demand.

“We play a very essential role in the country right now making food, so we have taken a few steps that are extraordinary for these times,” said Pocatello plant manager Norma Mery.

Mery said the company is “committed to social distancing,” which means quite a few things have been changed at the plant on Pocatello’s north side.

The Pocatello Amy’s Kitchen plant has allowed every employee who is either 65 or older or who has a chronic health condition to work from home if they can or to not work at all without losing any pay if it’s not possible for them to work remotely.

In addition, Mery said, “we are rearranging the way we make our food so that we can allow them to have distance between the employees. We have a second lunch room that we set up so that we can split people so that … we don’t have a lot of people who are sitting together at tables. We’ve staggered the entrance times so that they don’t all work together, they don’t all go on their break together.”

Employees are also allowed to use Gator face masks, surgical masks or both. And because the company was lucky enough to acquire a large supply of surgical masks, they will also be donating some of them to local hospitals for medical personnel to use.

Amy’s Kitchen is urging employees to wash their hands even more often than usual, and the company has also hired people specifically to sanitize the Pocatello plant on an ongoing basis.

“We’ve hired some individuals that all they do is they go up and down the hallways and the stairs and they’re cleaning the handrails,” Mery said. “In the shipping area, we’re cleaning constantly for the drivers who are coming in and going out.”

Despite everything, business is booming at the Pocatello facility, and the family-owned company that manufactures organic convenience and frozen foods is planning to hire up to 50 more people for permanent positions.

“I don’t want you to think that because there’s 60 people sheltering at home that these positions that we’re hiring for are temporary,” Mery said. “We’re hiring people to join the family and come work for us because we certainly continue to grow. This plant has got a lot more potential left. It’s one plant that has the extra capacity to grow. So we can always use good people.”

Most of those people will be working a second shift on the canning line, making soup that will be stocked in grocery stores. There has only been one shift on the canning line for years, but with an increase in demand, Amy’s Kitchen felt it needed to add another.

“There’s definitely been an increase in demand,” said Jessica Adkins, senior director of communications at Amy’s Kitchen, which is headquartered in California. “Everybody is seeing it across their grocery stores. I know that grocery stores are doing their best to refill stock as quickly as possible, and we’re doing our part to support that as much as we can. That’s why we’re adding an additional canning line to make soup so that we can continue to play our role of making food for people. So we’ve definitely seen an increase. What’s to come is anybody’s best guess, but we are doing our best to respond to consumers’ needs right now.”

Mery said that because Amy’s Kitchen’s workers have to work full shifts at the Pocatello plant, the company has been giving them some food to take home just in case the shelves at the grocery store are empty when they get there.

“We’re handing out soup cans and we’re handing out some cheese and we’re handing out some meals to employees to take home because we understand that they’re here eight, nine hours a day (and) by the time they get off, the shelves (at the grocery stores) are empty,” Mery said. “We’re trying to order the foods to support our employees and to support local businesses. We are trying to do our part. … We (give employees food) periodically through the year, normally closer to the holidays. But because of the situation we’re going through right now, we felt that it was the right thing to do.”

In addition to helping out their Pocatello plant employees directly, Amy’s Kitchen is making food donations to local food banks to help offset an increased amount of people who need help putting food on the table because of conronavirus-related layoffs and furloughs at numerous East Idaho businesses.

“We’re really trying to do our part, whether that’s getting food onto shelves for consumers to buy, whether it’s supporting our local community, or whether it’s donating food to people who are really struggling to find something to eat right now,” Adkins said.

If you are interested in working at Amy’s Kitchen, you can apply online at amys.com/careers or call the Pocatello plant at 208-239-6300.