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story.lead_photo.caption The exterior of Tyson Foods Inc. headquarters in Springdale. - Photo by Anthony Reyes

Rejoicy, an online marketplace based in Bentonville, has started selling low-cost meals in the Northwest Arkansas area, with help from Tyson Foods, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

For every four-serving, family-style meal purchased online, 10 meals are donated to the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank. The effort comes as more people shop online for convenience and safety reasons. Retailers, manufacturers and others have been pivoting to capture e-commerce sales during the economic downturn. Some not fast enough.

Edwin Ortiz, chief executive officer of Rejoicy, said the plan is to offer the online platform to help smaller businesses get their products to consumers, especially as shops close or face financial hardships from reduced sales.

Despite today's digital-dominant world, about 40% of small businesses don't have websites and 76% of them don't have a way to sell their products online, Ortiz said, citing recent studies.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

"They may just have a menu or information, but no way for a person to do a checkout," he said. "We are trying to make it a lot easier for communities to shop local."

Ortiz, who also founded and runs Luncher, a food-delivery platform that charges no delivery fee, said he wants Rejoicy to be an online marketplace for local vendors to sell their products.

While testing the website and recruiting businesses, the company is working with Tyson Ventures, the meat company's investment arm; Snack Lab; and Luncher to sell family meals for pickup or delivery across Northwest Arkansas. The four-person meals are $15 each and change daily. They are available for purchase at rejoicy.com/familymeals.

Martin Thoma, principal of Thoma Thoma marketing in Little Rock, said Rejoicy is reaching out to more "values-driven shoppers" with its website and donated-meals plan. At a time when Target, Amazon, Home Depot and others are expanding home delivery, it is imperative for small businesses to find a way to compete, he said.

"One of these aggregator websites makes a lot of sense for shoppers with a value proposition of spending closer to home, instead of further lining the pockets of these giant technology companies," Thoma said.

Rejoicy's donation of meals mirrors the Tacos 4 Life business model, which includes donations for each sale made. Tyson's financial and food support amplifies that idea, making it more appealing to consumers, Thoma said.

Since 2016, Tyson Ventures has made a number of small investments in food technology startups, including Memphis Meats, Tovala and MycoTechnology. The partnership with Rejoicy is different in that its focus is on supporting the region during the pandemic.

"We're excited about exploring new opportunities for partnership with local startups that support our mission of ensuring all people have access to affordable, nutritious food," Erin VanLanduit, managing director of Tyson Ventures, said in a statement Wednesday. "[We are] looking forward to collaborating with entrepreneurs right here in our own community as a small step towards fulfilling that future."

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