Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School and A.F. Wendling’s Foodservice team up to deliver an engaging experience for local students

Students learn the value of hard work and attention to detail while getting a taste of the career opportunities available to them, with a “behind the scenes” look at one of West Virginia’s oldest family-owned businesses, and one of the largest employers in Upshur County.

Buckhannon – A.F. Wendling’s Foodservice recently partnered with Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School and Project ISAAC (Increasing Student Achievement Advancing Community), to bring approximately 40 middle school students on-site to learn about the foodservice industry, explore how an order moves through the system, and how focusing on the customer drives the work everyone in the company does to ensure the best experience possible.

Project ISAAC is an after-school program designed to offer educational, enrichment, and recreational opportunities to students. Funding for this 21st Century Community Learning Center is provided wholly or in part by a grant from the United States Department of Education under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Title IV Part B, with grant administration carried out by the West Virginia Department of Education.

One goal of Project ISAAC is to provide students with a first-hand experience with local businesses and higher education organizations within our local community. Rose Mary Tomblyn, who has the role of Family and Community Engagement with Project ISAAC, commented, “We need to let kids know that there is opportunity for careers right under their nose here in Buckhannon”. 

Following a presentation of the company’s history and the important role a distributor plays in the industry, tour guides Michelle Beckner, and Tanner Graham brought a variety of experiences to life. Students jumped at the chance to take a seat behind the wheel of a delivery truck, and got to meet Driver Troy Smith, who described the highlights of his day and his role in customer service.

Walking in awe through a building housing over 7,000 items from floor to ceiling, students gradually experienced the varying ranges of temperatures in each area and learning their importance from a product freshness, quality, and safety standpoint.

They got to use a hand-held scanner to see how it was used to select the right product and place a label with the customer’s name on the package to ensure it gets to the right customer, but it was emphasized that while technology is important, people must pay attention to the task at hand while relying on training to ensure they do each task correctly.

The students asked great questions, from how much a person might be paid in different jobs, what kind of skills are required and what training they might receive, to where the little red chef in the logo came from (it was originally sketched by an A.F. Wendling’s Foodservice driver in the 1960’s).

The group enjoyed a snack while owner Chris Wendling shared how his grandfather started the business as an orphan at age 13 in Charleston, West Virginia in 1913, building the business on personalized service, and expanding his offerings each year.

Taking over the business in 1998, Chris was told by some in the industry he couldn’t run a broadline foodservice out of Buckhannon and compete with larger distributors located out of state.  He decided to prove people wrong, and since then has grown the business to almost $45,000,000, and now employs over 100 people. 

Offering his wisdom to future generations, Chris advised, “Don’t give up on your dream. Work hard at it, find good people to help, and you can be successful.”

A.F Wendling’s Foodservice is proud to work with community partners to help open the doors to a wealth of career opportunities available to the existing and future workforce.

Founded in 1913, A.F. Wendling’s Foodservice is a 3rd generation, family-owned Foodservice Distributor, located in Buckhannon, West Virginia. The company features a USDA-Inspected Meat shop and retail store (open to the public) located on-site, and serves many types of customers, from independent restaurants, senior centers, day care centers, schools, chains, and institutions including Hospitals and correctional facilities across 9 states.

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