March 4, 2010

In Today's Issue:

First Lady Says Phase out Fryers, Bring in Salad Bars

First Lady Michelle Obama speaks before the School Nutrition Association Monday.

In her speech this week to the School Nutrition Association, First Lady Michelle Obama continued her push for healthier school meals.  Promoting her new Let's Move! campaign to combat childhood obesity through healthy eating and increased exercise, Mrs. Obama was clear that the 31 million students who participate in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs each day should have access to more fresh fruits and vegetables, even saying to the audience of school foodservice directors that she supported increased funds for cafeteria equipment so schools could "... start phasing out those fryers and phasing in new ovens and salad bars and serving lines." The First Lady then went further, calling the healthfulness of school meals the "... single most important thing we can do to fight childhood obesity."

Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh vice president of nutrition and health, participated in the conference educational sessions. "In all my years as a public health nutritionist," she said, "this is the first time that I've seen the White House take the lead and be so engaged in improving children's access to healthier school meals.”

Recognizing the fact that kids who participate in school meal programs tend to get close to half of their calories from school meals, Mrs. Obama voiced how important it was that these meals reflect the latest dietary standards. She called for increasing school meal reimbursement rates in order to allow schools to serve more fruits and vegetables and even mentioned examples of schools that are putting healthier options into school vending machines.

A video of the First Lady's speech can be found here and more information on United's nutrition initiatives can be found by contacting Dr. DiSogra at 202-303-3400.

United's Salad Bar Allies Featured in Washington Post

Readers of this Sunday's Washington Post were treated to a rousing testament to the success of fruits and vegetables in school meals and the efficacy of salad bars in increasing their consumption. In the issue, Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School Director Linda Moore and Chef Lisa Dobbs published a column highlighting the successes of the school's lunch program, a focal point of which is a salad bar donated by United Fresh as part of the Salad Bar in Every School campaign.

Moore and Dobbs' column is reprinted below.

Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School students, from left, Nisa Morgan, Oriana Escobar and Sucha Mulholland at the cafeteria's salad bar, donated this fall by United Fresh.

How a D.C. school puts fresh food on the lunchroom tables
By Lisa Dobbs and Linda Moore

In his Feb. 14 Outlook commentary, "In D.C. school cafeterias, a long way from here to healthy," Ed Bruske asked a question on the minds of nearly every school parent, from Michelle Obama on down: How do we make the transition from feeding our children industrial food filled with artificial substances to freshly prepared, whole foods that are healthy for kids? At the Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School in Northeast, we think we've found the answer.

This month, we began preparing fresh food from fresh ingredients on site. One recent lunch, for instance, was black bean chicken, jasmine rice, Whole Foods-brand green peas, fresh apple slices tossed with cinnamon and low-fat white milk (chocolate is offered one day a week). The fresh chicken breast comes from a distributor, but it will soon be supplied by a local farmer. All the chicken, garlic, ginger, scallions and black beans that go into the dish are fresh, and we peel and chop everything ourselves.

So how does one get from reheating to fresh cooking?

We do it with a lot of hard work, and a lot of help. Stokes bought a building that was equipped with an antiquated but functioning kitchen. The Vulcan stoves and gas tops are more than half a century old, but after giving them a serious cleaning and turning on the gas for the first time in many years, we are able to cook with them. As Bruske pointed out, most local school kitchens have little actual cooking equipment, a serious impediment to fresh in-school food preparation.

To cook for and serve the nearly 400 adults and children who make up the Stokes population, we have a kitchen staff of five. We clean up afterward and do the paperwork required to comply with the Agriculture Department's National School Lunch Program in order to receive the reimbursements that are the lifeblood of school lunch service nationwide. If the reimbursements reflected the higher costs of fresh food preparation, more schools would be able to make the transition.

We offer our students and staff members a full salad bar every day, thanks to the donation of a refrigerated bar from the United Fresh Produce Association. It is simply not true that kids do not eat vegetables. What is true is that they will not eat -- nor will most adults -- vegetables that have been frozen or processed until they become nasty mush. Our kids ravage that salad bar every day. We literally run out of most things we put out, especially the uncooked cauliflower, broccoli and leaf spinach. And these are pre-K through sixth-graders!

We are not a rich school. Our funds are limited. So the second reason we were able to do this is that we asked for, and received, a lot of help.

A small, superbly effective Washington-based nonprofit called Through the Kitchen Door, with funding from Kaiser Permanente, made our start-up possible. Through the Kitchen Door secured donations of most of the equipment we needed, much of which came from Whole Foods Market, which has a program of promoting healthy nutrition in local schools. We used money from the stimulus bill to buy a commercial refrigerator, freezer and a hot holding cabinet and to hire three additional kitchen staff members.

Our wish list of needs is still long, but little by little we are making progress. One parent owns a local farmer's market and is putting us in touch with farmers who can supply us year-round. Thanks in part to the first lady, improving school lunches has shot to the top of the nutrition agenda in Washington, which makes this a good time to apply for grants. We are making full use of every fruit and vegetable program that the U.S. government offers.

We work bare bones at the moment. But everyone in the building is devoted to the idea that when children are properly nourished and their bodies are healthier, they can learn, think and play better, and are ultimately better equipped to reach their potential.

For more information on the Salad Bar in Every School initiative, contact United Fresh at 202-303-3400.

United Fresh 2010 to Feature Programming Tailored to Each Market Segment

Attendees hear from United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel during the Grower-Shipper Market Segment Board Super Session at United Fresh 2009.

From sustainability and labor issues on the farm to the latest retail trends and insight from award-winning chefs, United Fresh 2010, April 20-23 in Las Vegas, will feature education for each segment of the fresh and fresh-cut produce industry.

Within each market segment, United Fresh 2010 will feature an individual Learning Center on the trade show floor as well as a break-out Super Session for segment members. Programming for each segment includes:

In the "Building Value in the Retail/Foodservice Partnership" Super Session, the group will look at building value with retailers and foodservice outlets, including ways for growers and shippers to  create long-term relationships with buyers that go beyond just price and supply. Also at the session, retail leaders from a variety of store formats and foodservice chains will share expectations and examples of how to enhance every deal for benefit buyers and sellers.

Learning Centers for the segment will include "Making Sense of On-Farm Sustainability," "Building More Effective Retail Relationships," "Managing Labor Issues Through Good Times and Crisis" and "Know Your Farmer: Telling Your Story Even When You're Not Local."

"The Changing Nature of Today's Workforce" Super Session will explore the dynamics facing industry employers, including what steps wholesalers can take to ensure they recruit the best team. Attendees will hear insights and best practices from management experts and top employers from the wholesale-distribution sector.

Wholesaler-Distributor Learning Center topics include: "Can Wholesalers & Distributors Profit from Regional Food Systems?" "PACA & Produce Inspection - An Update from the USDA," "Wholesale Facility Design to Save Energy and Costs" and "Nutrition Programs To Drive Wholesaler-Distributor Profits."

Fresh-Cut Processor:
This two-part  Fresh-Cut Super Session starts with "Understanding Consumer Perspectives of Fresh-Cut," where attendees will be among the first to hear new research findings of United's Issues Scan 2010 report, as well as insight from United's Image of Fresh-Cut Working Group. Attendees will also learn about fresh-cut marketing campaigns from Europe's industry leaders and discover how they influence consumers in the UK/EU fresh-cut market. In the second part, "Taking Advantage of New Product Trends and Business Channels in Fresh-Cut," attendees learn about fresh-cut advances in quick-service restaurants and vending machines and how processors can profit from these trends.

Fresh-Cut Learning Centers will discuss "Understanding Testing Options in Fresh-Cut Operations," "Telling the Positive Story of Fresh-Cut Produce," "New Product Launches - Success Principles & In-Store Execution" and "Best Practices in Fresh-Cut Sustainability."

The focus of the Super Session on "Shifting Consumer Trends at Retail & Foodservice" is on the economy's effects on consumer shopping and consumption behavior. Attendees will come away with insights about today’s changing consumer dynamics and their impact on where consumers will spend their food dollars in the future.

Learning Centers for the segment will include "Excellence in Foodservice - A Produce Roundtable Discussion with Award Winning Chefs," "Consumer Trends, Price Deflation & the Impact at Retail," "The Future of Locally Grown - Retail Roundtable Discussion" and "Regulatory Pressures on Restaurants and the Impact on Produce."

"To deliver real value for our convention attendees, we must deliver  programming to meet the unique needs of each part of the supply chain," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. "it's been so rewardring to work with our volunteer leadership to develop educational programs that target critical priorities and opportunities within each segment. The Learning Centers and Super Sessions are a great way each attendee to experience  a show that has truly been customized for his or her own business."

The tailored programming is a key part of United Fresh 2010's theme of "Winning Is Everything." United Fresh 2010 looks to highlight the skills, products and technologies needed to build and maintain a successful, winning produce business, focusing on specialized programming for all segments of the fresh and fresh-cut produce industry.

A full schedule of Learning Centers and Super Sessions, as well as registration options and general show information can be found at

United Raises Questions About Foodborne Illness Study

United Fresh has issued a strong response to an economic modeling project that estimates the total monetary impact of foodborne illness outbreaks at $152 billion.  The study, issued this week by the Pew Charitable Foundation's Produce Safety Project, used existing data from several sources to estimate economic effect of food-related illness, including costs from lost work time, quality of life and a broad range of other factors.

"It's really a shame that, once again, advocates for food safety legislative reform are stoking unneeded anxiety about produce safety," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. "This report inappropriately lumps together data from all foods and all food contamination events, including those at church picnics and cross-contamination after sale to the consumer. There's no data on illnesses actually related to contamination from the farm, which is a much smaller subset cause of foodborne illness. And, there's no recognition of the reduction in the number of outbreaks in recent years related to major produce commodities, such as leafy greens and tomatoes, which have undertaken extraordinary steps to ensure safety. Contrast this with the fact that consumers enjoy more than 1 billion servings of fruits and vegetables every day without incident.

"The fresh produce industry is working tirelessly to grow and market the safest possible products," Stenzel continued. "And, we strongly support national government oversight of produce safety standards to ensure a science-based, commodity-specific approach no matter where a product is grown. What's harmful about tactics like this is that advocates are actually scaring consumers away from the very products they need to be consuming more of for better health."

Produce Industry Leadership Program Class 16 Applications Due This Week

Members of Leadership Class 15 await a tour of Dole's Rio Frio banana operation during a class trip to Costa Rica last month.

Friday, March 5 is the fast-approaching deadline for applications to United's popular Produce Industry Leadership Program.

"We are really encouraging the up-and-coming leaders in the industry to step forward and be recognized through this challenging program," said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Member Services Victoria Backer.

The Produce Industry Leadership Program is made possible through a generous grant from DuPont Crop Protection and represents a special opportunity for United members to advance and foster their leadership skills and industry knowledge. Each year, 12 candidates are selected to participate in the year-long program that focuses on four fundamental goals: leadership development, business relationships, government and public affairs, and media and public relations. 

The program, open only to United Fresh members, continues to be the only ongoing, fully-paid leadership program for the produce industry and since its inception in 1995, boasts over 180 alumni.

Information and an application for the program may be downloaded here, and applications must be received by Friday, March 5. For more information or questions, contact Julie Jacocks, United Fresh education coordinator at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.

No Major Produce Disruptions Expected Following Chile Quake

The Chilean Exporters Association (ASOEX) released a statement this week confirming that the country’s fresh fruit industry is assessing the impact of last weekend’s magnitude-8.8 earthquake.

According to the statement, " remains too early to deliver a full long-term analysis, but early indications are that large parts of the industry have emerged with minimal damage and the short-term prospects for trade are good."

ASOEX is working on confirming reports of damage to some packing sheds, cold storage facilities, transportation links, ports and airports. Currently the main port of Valparaiso is working to almost full capacity, with vessels departing and loading for departure this week. In addition to Valparaiso, the San Antonio Port is currently under evaluation and the Port of Coquimbo is working normally.

"Although it's too early to measure the likely mid- to long-term impact of the earthquake on fruit supplies for export, initial reports are encouraging," said ASOEX Chairman Ronald Bown. "A number of the key packing facilities escaped with minimal damage and where roads and bridges are impassible, alternate routes are available. Because Chile has moved to the peak of the harvest season, a substantial volume of fruit is on the water headed for international ports. We do not anticipate major disruption in fruit supplies."

ASOEX is working on a complete diagnosis of the situation and updates will be posted at

United Fresh Collaborates on Green Onion Food Safety Guidance Document

The Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Production, Harvest, Post-Harvest, and Value-Added Operations of Green Onions, a new voluntary food safety guidance document for the production and harvest of green onions was released on Tuesday. A product of collaboration between United Fresh, the Western Growers Association and the Produce Marketing Association, the document was developed to strengthen the safety of the green onion supply chain.

The document was funded through the California Department of Food and Agriculture under the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and is based on work begun by the fresh produce industry in the summer of 2006 at the request of FDA. It is meant to augment green onion food safety efforts already underway in Mexico and Canada.

"Western Growers should be congratulated for leading this open and transparent process for developing consensus among all interested stakeholders," said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. David Gombas. "Like its predecessors for leafy greens, tomatoes and melons, the Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Production, Harvest, Post-Harvest, and Value-Added Operations of Green Onions will be an important tool in the industry's continued efforts to improve the safety of fresh produce."  

"The Guidelines for the Production and Harvest of Green Onions represent a substantial body of work that will provide a much needed general framework which growers, packers, distributors, marketers, regulators and consumers can use as the basis for evaluating the effectiveness of food safety controls used with the production of this fresh vegetable", said Dr. Robert Buchanan, director of the Center for Food Safety and Security Systems at the University of Maryland.

"This document presents the food safety best practices to be followed by green onion suppliers, and to be used as a purchasing requirement by customers. It establishes the level of performance, programs and procedures that, when adopted, will significantly increase the level of food safety across the green onion supply chain," added Dave Murphy, director of food safety and quality programs at Boskovich Farms, Inc. "Many of the most regarded experts in growing, processing and selling of green onions have collaborated on this document. I encourage everyone in our industry to take advantage of these guidelines in their operations."

The Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Production, Harvest, Post-Harvest, and Value-Added Operations of Green Onions can be downloaded by clicking here.

First Produce Inspection Course of 2010 Attracts Participants from Far and Wide

WelcomeMembers of the produce industry from across the nation and as far as Brazil took part in last week's Produce Inspection Training Program at the USDA Fresh Products Branch National Inspectors' Training Center in Fredericksburg, Va.

Presented by United Fresh in cooperation with USDA, the week-long program combines a classroom-based curriculum that focuses on inspection fundamentals such as grading, standards, tolerances, PACA and sampling procedures, complimented by three days of hands-on commodity inspections in the lab.

"This program provides an excellent opportunity for novice employees to learn the basics of produce inspection, as well as a valuable tool for experienced managers to better understand the intricacies of the inspection process," said Julie Jacocks, United Fresh education coordinator.

Course attendees included representatives from C&C Produce Company, C. H. Robinson Worldwide, Cris-P Produce Company, Ger-Nis International, I Love Produce, Koo's, The Kroger Company, Malena Produce, Riveridge Produce, Southern Fulfillment Services, Superior Sales, Survey Pericias, Torrey Farms, W.R. Vernon Produce Co., Whole Foods Market and WM Rosenstein & Sons Co.

Two more inspection courses will be available in 2010, including June 7-11 and September 20-24.  To learn more, click here or contact Jacocks at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.

Applicants Sought for International Agricultural Fellowship

International leadership development program Eisenhower Fellowships has announced that it is currently accepting applications from experienced farmers and ranchers for its 2011 Agricultural Fellowship.

Fellowship recipients will receive a custom-designed, all-expenses paid program overseas for up to five weeks in one or two countries where fellows will focus on agricultural issues. In addition, recipients will receive orientation and post-travel debriefing in Philadelphia along with a select group of fellows from around the world.

Applicants must be a practicing farmer or rancher, aged 32-45 with excellent networking avenues, demonstrated leadership experience, U.S. citizenship or permanent resident and a commitment to at least 15-20 years of further active leadership in agriculture.

Eisenhower Fellowships challenges fellows to identify specific projects they will undertake upon completion of travel, often in collaboration with other Eisenhower Fellows, and to remain engaged with the program for their lifetime.

Applications must be received by July 1 and interviews will be held later that month. For more information and application details, visit or contact Julia Ransom at 215-546-1738.

World-Class Entertainment for Free? Why Haven't You Registered Yet?

Congratulations to Pride Pak Canada's Steven Karr, winner of last week's United Fresh Show-A-Week Giveaway. Steven won a pair of tickets to Cirque Du Soleil’s Criss Angel: Believe at the Luxor.

Each Friday from now until United Fresh 2010, we'll draw one lucky winner from all registered attendees and send them to see an evening of fantastic Las Vegas entertainment completely free!

This week's Show-A-Week Giveaway: Jersey Boys

Register now for United Fresh 2010 to be automatically entered for your chance to win two tickets to a Las Vegas show during United Fresh 2010, April 20-23. We update the list each week with new registrants, so the sooner you register for United Fresh 2010, the greater your chances to win.

Registered attendees must be paid in full to be eligible and may win only once. Tickets will be valid for shows on April 20 and April 21, 2010.

Previous Winners:

Susan Reimer-Sifford, Darden Restaurants - Viva Elvis by Cirque du Soleil
Emily Fragoso, Coast Produce - KÁ by Cirque du Soleil
Greg Kurkjian, Mann Packing Company - Jersey Boys
Hillary Brick, The Giumarra Companies - Mystére by Cirque du Soleil
Mike Aiton, Prime Time International - Phantom of the Opera
Becky Baker, Potandon Produce - Blue Man Group

United Fresh 2010 Show-A-Week Giveaway is sponsored by:

New Member Welcome

Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:

  • Bamford Produce Company, Mississauga, Ontario
  • Costa Fruit & Produce, Charlestown, Mass.
  • Family Tree Produce, Anaheim, Calif.
  • G2 Farms, Austin, Texas
  • Gene Wheeler Farms, Lancaster, Calif.
  • GoFresh, Tulsa, Okla.
  • Grasmick Produce, Boise, Idaho
  • Hector Larivée Inc., Montreal, Québec
  • N Laws Produce, Savannah, Ga.
  • Paragon Foodservice, Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • The Perishable Specialist, Miami, Fla.
  • Segovia’s Distributing, El Paso, Texas
  • Stern Produce, Phoenix, Ariz.
  • Tarantino Foods, Buffalo, N.Y.
  • Vinyard Fruit & Vegetable Co., Oklahoma City, Okla.

United Fresh thanks all current members for their dedication to the Association and the produce industry. Please let us know whenever we can be of service to you.  For more details about the benefits of membership, please contact Jeff Oberman at 831-422-0940 or Miriam Miller at 202-303-3410.

Upcoming United Fresh Events
Upcoming Events

News & Views


News and Views

Biden to AFL-CIO: Organizing bill can pass – Wall Street Journal

Farmers, activists push for immigration reform – Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

South Dakota officials wary of agricultural terrorism – Sioux Falls Argus Leader

U.S. agriculture in a competitive struggle – Youngstown Vindicator

Virginia specialty crop growers can apply for competitive block grants – WHSV-TV


EU authorizes GMO potatoes – Sydney Morning Herald

Indonesia builds warning system for food safety – Jakarta Post

For Ontario produce company, being visionary is a family tradition – Calgary Herald

Officials in China at odds over food scandal – New York Times

EU earmarks over 380 million birr for Ethiopian food security programs – Walta Information Center

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