HERSHEY, PA. — The Hershey Co. has committed $1 million to acquire, install and staff a manufacturing line to produce disposable face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The line will become operational near the end of May and will have capacity to produce 45,000 masks per day.

“Supporting our communities in difficult times is part of our legacy, and an important value that our current employees share,” said Michele G. Buck, president and chief executive officer. “From the building projects that created local jobs during the Great Depression, to producing military rations during World War II, we take great pride in making a difference where we can.”

Hershey said it is leveraging internal engineering capabilities and relationships with equipment manufacturers to convert its operations to the production of face masks, addressing the nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment.

“Disposable masks will be an integral piece of protecting the health and safety of our employees, their families and our community as we move forward over the weeks and months ahead,” said Jason Reiman, chief supply chain officer. “Changing how we work, and adding this capability is a testament to the adaptability of our team, and our desire to make a difference.”

Other actions Hershey has taken to support communities during the pandemic have included monetary donations to United Way Worldwide, Feeding America and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, as well as various food banks across the country. The company also has delivered its products to hospitals and health care institutions in more than a dozen states and has dedicated warehouse space to distribute N95 masks and surgical gloves to Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

 To ensure the health and safety of its employees, Hershey has increased protective measures and offered flexible work schedules, pay incentives and enhanced assistance programs.

“Hershey’s remarkable employees are the first and foremost priority during this extraordinary time,” said Chris Scalia, chief human resources officer. “They not only make it possible to maintain our operations as a critical piece of our communities’ food supply, but also exemplify our commitment to excellence, safety and our belief that we are stronger together.”

Additionally, Hershey said it is creating jobs in manufacturing and sales to provide economic stability to its partners, suppliers and communities.

“Caring for communities is not about taking any single action,” Ms. Buck said. “It’s a combination of many people taking many actions from a place of shared values and a sense of responsibility for one another. It’s one of the many things I cherish about leading the remarkable women and men of The Hershey Co.”