November 23, 2010

In Today's Issue:

United Fresh Joins First Lady to Launch Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools Initiative

United Fresh Chairman of the Board Steffanie Smith, CEO, River Point Farms, and President/CEO Tom Stenzel joined First Lady Michelle Obama at an elementary school in Miami, Florida on Monday to help launch a new Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative. 

"We are thrilled to now take the United Fresh salad bar campaign to a new level, joining with the Let's Move! initiative in a broad coalition committed to increasing children's access to a wide array of fruits and vegetables in schools," Smith said. "The new initiative builds on the pioneering work we've done over the past year to spearhead public health attention on the power of school salad bars as an effective strategy for increasing children’s consumption of fruits and vegetables. This would not have been possible without the commitment and generous support of our members, allowing us to donate 60 salad bars to schools in 12 states so far this year."

The First Lady announced that the new Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools coalition includes three founding partners - the United Fresh Foundation, Food Family Farming Foundation, and the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance, which in turn represents a wide array of public and private sector partners.* 

"The folks standing here understand that we've got to get more salad bars into our schools," said Mrs. Obama. "And they've committed to working to make sure that more public schools all across the country get salad bars. We have with us representatives from the National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance, from the Food, Family, Farming Foundation, and from the United Fresh Produce Association. And together this team of wonderful people have put together something called Lets Move Salad Bars To Schools. You hear that? Let's Move Salad Bars To Schools. Pretty good, right?"

"The addition of these partners, including the USDA, CDC and numerous public health organizations, provides a powerful team to make salad bars a cornerstone strategy in increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in schools," Stenzel said.  "Even now, the USDA team is preparing guidance for schools in effectively incorporating salad bars in meal planning, providing food safety training, and bringing together school foodservice leaders to share best practices and innovations. The CDC is providing strong public health evaluation, working with state health and nutrition directors to measure the impact of salad bars in schools in increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and combating childhood obesity.  Public health groups focused on prevention of cancer, heart disease and diabetes are alerting their constituents to the simple but effective strategy of using school salad bars to meet the critical need to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. And, consumer groups, foundations and industry partners are working together to build private-sector funding and grassroots support for school salad bars.  It's an incredible team."

"Mrs. Obama was a huge hit with the children at Riverside Elementary School, where she spent almost an hour visiting with kids at every lunch table," Smith said. "You could see the excitement on their faces, but also their enjoyment of tasting new fruits and vegetables and knowing that a variety of choices would be available every day in the new fruit and vegetable salad bar we donate."

One of the key strategies in the new Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative is to provide schools that want a salad bar the opportunity to create their own webpage at www.saladbars2schools.org to raise donations from their local communities as well as receive donations from the general funds of the initiative.

The First Lady acknowledged the role that salad bars and a healthier lifestyle play in fostering healthier kids. "There are studies that show that kids who are eating their fruits and vegetables on a regular basis actually do better in school.  Did you all know that?" she said. "So that's one of the reasons why all of this is important and why we need to make vegetables interesting to you guys -- right? We have here this beautiful salad bar, because what we've also found is that if you take vegetables and you organize them in a pretty, delicious way, kids like you may actually eat them more -- because it looks kind of cool, doesn't it?"

"I anticipate that this will become one of the most effective features of the campaign," Smith said. "As an onion grower in a rural community in Oregon, we want to work with our local schools to show them the value of salad bars, and get them registered on the site. It won't take long for local businesses, parent-teacher organizations and community organizations to raise the $2,500 or so that it takes to install a modern, food safety compliant salad bar in schools across the country."

With the launch of the new Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, United President Stenzel also thought back to its origins. 

"It's hard to believe how far we've come in one year, when our Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra suggested to me that we bring a group of researchers and school officials to Washington to brief members of Congress and the Administration on the power of salad bars in schools.  Those of you who know Lorelei know that it is hard to turn her down, and I’m so glad I said "yes."

"From there we were inspired at the annual convention in May by New York City school leaders who embraced the goal of a salad bar in every school as a way to change the lives of more than one millions kids a day. And, we received a nice letter from Mrs. Obama commending our efforts at that time, but also challenging us to do more. 

"So, today here we are -- with an amazing coalition representing public health organizations, consumer groups, foundations, government and industry - all united in common cause.  Our challenge ahead is great, but so is the cause and opportunity. I invite anyone interested in this shared mission to contact the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools partners, and join the team," Stenzel concluded.

A full transcript of the First Lady’s remarks can be found here, and photos of the event can be viewed here. For more information on Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, please visit www.saladbars2schools.org.

* Members of the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance:
American Cancer Society
American Diabetes Association
American Dietetic Association
American Frozen Food Institute
American Heart Association
California Department of Public Health
Canned Food Alliance
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
National Council of Fruit & Vegetable Nutrition Coordinators
National Alliance for Nutrition & Physical Activity
National Cancer Institute
Produce for Better Health Foundation
Produce Marketing Association
United Fresh Produce Association
US Department of Agriculture
   Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services
   Research, Education and Economics
   Marketing and Regulatory Programs


United Fresh and Industry Allies Oppose Tester Amendment to Senate Food Safety Legislation

As the Senate continues debate on S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, United Fresh and our produce industry allies are continuing to build opposition to an amendment offered by Senator Jon Tester of Montana exempting small farms and business operations from basic federal food safety requirements.  Robert Guenther, Senior Vice President of Public Policy, offered the following statement on the amendment and the legislation.

"The fresh produce industry has long supported food safety modernization with industry leaders testifying to that effect before Congressional committees numerous times," said Guenther."“But, we have also consistently stated that food safety policy must be based on risk and science, not speculation and ideology.  Unfortunately, Senator Tester's amendment would reject a risk-based approach to food safety, setting up a federal food safety system that adheres to arbitrary exemptions rather than to sound scientific principles.

On Friday, United Fresh joined with 19 other produce organizations to send the Senate a strong statement of opposition to the Tester amendment.

"As stated in our letter," continued Guenther, "... comments from Senator Tester and supporters are now making it abundantly clear that their cause is not to argue that small farms pose less risk, but to wage an ideological war against the vast majority of American farmers who devote their personal commitment to feeding 300 million Americans every day.  We are appalled at statements by Senator Tester reported today in the Capital Press that "Small producers are not raising a commodity, but are raising food.  Industrial agriculture, he said, takes the people out of the equation."  This is simply hogwash, and should insult not only the farmers of America, but the intelligence of members of Congress.

:"The consequences of inadequate food safety precautions have no boundaries as to size of operation, geography, nor whether the product is sold at a farm stand or grocery store," Guenther concluded. "The consumer has a right to know that all food that they purchase has been produced, transported and offered for sale under the same food safety requirements."


United Fresh Supports Senator Stabenow for Senate Agriculture Committee Chairmanship

"During her time in Congress," said Stenzel, "... Senator Stabenow has been a great friend of the produce industry and a leader on many agriculture issues. As chairman, she will also bring a strong sense of cooperation and bipartisanship to this position, a critical quality during the upcoming debate on the Farm Bill."
         
Senator Stabenow, who authored the Horticulture title of the 2008 Farm Bill, has spent a lifetime working for agriculture in the Michigan state legislature, the U.S. House of Representatives and now as the United States Senator from Michigan since 2000. Not only has she worked for the fruit and vegetable growers in her own state, she has worked on many other important agriculture commodity issues including, dairy, conservation, rural development and sugar while focusing efforts around nutrition, food safety policy and renewable energy initiatives that impact agriculture stakeholders across the country. In fact, Michigan ranks as the second most diversified agricultural state in the country. 

Particularly noteworthy is Senator Stabenow's support for landmark legislation that would incorporate the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program into schools nationwide.  This law has made vital changes in schoolchildren’s lives, introducing them to healthier foods and eating habits by increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables in schools. Last summer, she spent time in California touring both the Central Valley and Salinas areas to better understand western agriculture and met with many farmers about the need to cooperate across commodity and regional lines.

"Senator Stabenow brings a wealth of experience to the table when it comes to agriculture issues and how they impact farmers and ranchers of all sizes. The Senate Agriculture Committee will be in capable hands with Senator Stabenow," said Robert Guenther, Senior Vice President of Public Policy for United Fresh.
         
"Senator Stabenow has the full support of fruit and vegetable producers across the country as the next chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee," added Stenzel.  “The Senate would be well-served under her leadership on the many challenges we face in the coming years."


A Vote on Child Nutrition Next Week

United Fresh and other child nutrition advocates are gearing up for a House vote on the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act next week.

"We will be participating in a Capitol Hill Child Nutrition Rally and press event on Wednesday, December 1," said Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United's vice president of nutrition and health. "The purpose of the rally is to raise the visibility about the importance of passing the child nutrition bill on either December 2 or 3." 

United Fresh has been busy this week reaching out to members of the House and to House leadership, urging passage of the bill and emphasizing the bill's benefits to agriculture and produce. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will benefit both the produce industry and children nationwide, improving the healthfulness of school meals by increasing the federal reimbursement rate for school lunch by $.06. The increase in the reimbursement rate is tied specifically to serving more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The bill also creates national nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, providing new marketing and sales opportunities for fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables.

The bill is expected to go to the House Rules Committee on Tuesday, November 30 and to be brought up on the House floor under regular order, requiring 221 votes to pass. There will be the opportunity for House members to debate the bill and the possibility of amendments. United Fresh is asking House Members to pass a clean, no strings attached, amendment-free Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act next week.   

"Building strong bi-partisan support for passage of the child nutrition bill is still critically important and I encourage all United Fresh members to contact their member of Congress on  November 29 and urge them to vote "YES" on the child nutrition bill,"  said Dr. DiSogra.  "Our goal is to get the child nutrition bill passed and to the President's desk by the end of next week."

For more information, contact Dr. DiSogra at 202-303-3400, ext. 403.


A Thanksgiving Message from United Fresh President Tom Stenzel

Tomorrow, those of us in the U.S. will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. As we pack the kids in the car and head to the airport, or put the finishing touches on the house before the family arrives, we take stock of our many blessings. Every year at this time, I am reminded of how lucky we are to do what we do. We are part of the noblest and most wonderful profession in the world - feeding people across the globe with the healthiest foods on the planet.

As representatives of each point in the fresh produce supply chain, those of you who grow, cut, pack, ship, sell or serve fresh fruits and vegetables have worked all year to provide Americans with the foods which their families enjoy this holiday season. I hope you will relax and enjoy yourselves tomorrow and take time to reflect on the important role our industry plays in providing delicious and nutritious foods for Thanksgiving and every day of the year.

The United Fresh family salutes each of you for your accomplishments and ongoing commitment to bringing that amazing bounty from our farms to tables around the world.

Best wishes for a great Thanksgiving holiday.


United Fresh Joins in Opposition to Labeling System for Crop Protection Materials

This week, United Fresh joined the Agricultural Retailers Association and eleven other industry associations in sending a letter to the U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Pesticide programs in opposition to a proposal to implement a new web-distributed labeling system for crop protection materials.

EPA has been promoting this alternative as a way to save money and provide more rapid access to information. However, United and its coalition partners believe that the web-based system proposed by EPA will not significantly increase access to label information or enhance the understanding of the label information by users. The new system would impose costs on the registrants, which will be passed on to consumers, and this proposal should not be a priority for EPA.

Click here for a full transcript of the letter. For more on United's work on pesticide and environmental issues, please contact United Fresh Vice President of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability Rob Neenan at 202-303-3400, ext. 427.


Webinar Tackles Canada's eManifest Program, United Members Attend Free

United Fresh members will receive free registration for a webinar on the Canadian Border Services' eManifest program hosted by the Canadian Produce Marketing Association on December 2.

"This program will definitely impact the carrier industry, as well in turn affect on time delivery for the industry if the shippers are not prepared," said Bev Appelby, CPMA's government relations and education manager.

As part of a continuing webinar series, the event will address the program, which was recently implemented on November 1. The webinar aims to assist the produce industry and specifically the carrier community in their efforts to implement the eManifest program.

The webinar will feature James J. Spina of the Canadian Border Services Agency's eManifest and Major Projects Directorate and will address key requirements for eManifest compliance, how the elimination of carrier codes is improving border security and the impact on the industry from advance data requirements.

For more information or to register, please click here or contact Appelby at 613-226-4187, ext. 227.


Meet Your United Fresh Board of Directors: On Thanksgiving, Bunzl's Greg Wohlleb Settles Long-Standing Feud Between Kentucky Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey

Greg Wohlleb
Vice President, Food Processing
Bunzl Distributing
Louisville, Kentucky

How did you get your start with Bunzl?

I sold my packaging company, which I had owned for about 20 years, in the early 2000's. During that time, Bunzl was my biggest customer, and all of the senior management were not only business friends, but also long-term personal friends. About six years ago, I knew I wanted to get back into the packaging part of the industry, and I spoke with the CEO who told me about the need for leadership in the company’s food processor division. I’ve been with that group ever since.

You mention leadership. Bunzl has been a leading voice in the push for whole-chain traceability and a staunch supporter of the Produce Traceability Initiative. What is it about the traceability effort that you see as important to the industry?

I've talked to many people - small and large - and I’ve told them that when you get right down to it, it really isn't a matter of cost. I was recently at a symposium with Mike Agostini from WalMart and he made it pretty clear when he said, "... if you want to do business with us, you've got to follow PTI - period." He didn't say it nasty at all, rather he was very up front in saying that we as an industry have to take care of ourselves. We've been meeting with senior people at retailers about our traceability program, and time and time again, people look at the program and tell us how they want to tell their growers that they’ve got to comply. We've heard it over and over from the industry that we've got to band together and do this. Bunzl has kept food safety at the forefront in terms of our work with our retail customers, which have been the cornerstone of our business for decades. To me, food safety is the overarching and unifying theme for both traceability and sustainability, so at Bunzl, it seemed very clear for our food processing division to take our food safety mantra and search out new technologies in the areas of traceability and sustainability.

As a business, what advantages have you seen from endorsing a more accountable system of traceability?

I think from a leadership standpoint, people have a higher expectation of Bunzl because of our size and scale, and thus expect us to take more of a leadership role with regards to important issues of the day. Additionally, by taking a leadership position and working very closely in helping to build the TRUETRAC program, of which we are now the exclusive distributor and marketer, I think that it has shown the industry our strong commitment to food safety, traceability and sustainability. I think companies with our size and scale have to do this, to take dramatic steps as we move into the future, in order to help our industry take itself to the next level. 

Your company is very much committed to food safety. Have you been following the progress on the food safety bill?

[United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert] Guenther sent out a great rundown last week describing the current state of affairs. It's almost as if Senator Tester is vilifying bigger businesses, creating a chasm between big and small, me and them, and it’s just so "old politics." If someone has 10 acres, they can just as easily make people sick by not using proper practices and following the rules as a much larger producer can. It's just so basic. A bill that includes this amendment is essentially meaningless, because it basically says that anyone who doesn’t want to follow the rules doesn’t need to, provided they’re the right size.

You have customers of all different sizes and from all different backgrounds. Given how easy it is to fall into that chasm of "big versus small," how do you ensure that everyone is on the same page, working toward the same goal?

I don't think that the issues of food safety, traceability and sustainability have anything to do with size. Issues such as food safety for example don't come in a "size." I grew up with a father, grandfather and uncles who had retail bakeries here in Louisville, so I grew up in a small business environment. Regardless of the size of his business, my father took food safety very seriously. He was of the opinion that he had the capability of making someone just as sick as one of the bigger manufacturers. That was a responsibility he didn't take lightly at all. Because of that, I feel that I really "get it." I think that's one of the reasons that Bunzl has me in the position that they do is that my perspective is based on more than just one thing.

The industry is moving toward a better definition of sustainability and what it means to be "green." Tell me about some of the work that Bunzl is doing to that end.

As a global company in 28 countries, Bunzl is exposed to a variety of cultures, and I think as a whole, the United Kingdom - where the company is headquartered - and the other European communities seem to have embraced the sustainability effort in advance of the United States, so I think our being headquartered in the UK has something to do with our company-wide effort to "green" our practices. I think that, given the legacy nature of the supermarket business, and our dealing with that industry so much, it has really pushed us to look for more sustainable products and options for those customers.

In your mind, is there a reason that sustainability has caught on more quickly in Europe than in the United States?

I think that it's a function more of the way of life over there. They take more trips to the store more frequently, purchasing less in the way of volume, essentially buying only what they need for a short period of time. Add to that the fact that the land available over there simply isn't what it is here in the United States. Because of these factors, I think that they are brought up to be more sustainable.

Are you from there in Louisville? Married? Kids?

I was born and raised in Louisville, although I got my MBA from Xavier in Cincinnati. At that time, I ran the food manufacturing division of a large company here in Louisville, as well as several of the distribution divisions of that company. From there, my partner and I launched our packaging business and I was able to stay here. I am married, and have two daughters, both in their early thirties. Unfortunately both live out of town. I do have one granddaughter, Eloise Gregory.

With the holiday coming up, will you get to see the whole family?

We will, actually. I saw my one daughter and granddaughter last week. This Thanksgiving, however, we're headed to the in-laws, and then everyone is coming here for Christmas. If you're married, I’m sure you're familiar with the concept of "home-and-away game" holidays. I get an away game for Thanksgiving and a home game for Christmas, which will work out just fine.

As a person with an extensive food background, do you have any particular Thanksgiving traditions?

Not in terms of different foods, necessarily. I am a huge fan of pumpkin pie, though. We tend to have a very formal dinner spread with my wife's family, with the candelabras and the whole deal. It's a lot of fun. We invite some folks over, have some great conversation, some good food, a couple of glasses of bourbon - Kentucky bourbon of course, there's only one. You can mess around and get that rot-gut Jack Daniel's, but the Tennessee whiskey just doesn't measure up. Interestingly, Jack Daniel's is owned by Brown-Forman here in Louisville. It's their number one seller and a huge cash cow for them, but amid all the trash talk between Kentucky and Tennessee whiskey, they're actually headquartered here in Louisville. All in good fun though, the Brown Forman family has been a great corporate citizen in this city for many, many years. There are some wonderful stories about the company through the age of prohibition and beyond.


Chairman's Roundtable Thanks 2010 Supporters

United Fresh's Chairman's Roundtable provides extra support for programs in government relations, food safety, nutrition policy and other areas to help grow the produce industry. We are pleased to recognize the following companies who have committed to the 2010 Chairman's Roundtable:

  • BASF Corporation, Research Triangle Park, NC
  • Columbine Vineyards, Delano, CA
  • Dole Food Company, Westlake Village, CA
  • Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, WA
  • Northwest Horticultural Council, Yakima, WA
  • Ocean Mist Farms, Castroville, CA
  • Peter Condakes Company, Inc., Everett, MA

The Chairman's Roundtable is an opportunity for United Fresh member companies to contribute above and beyond their basic dues. Roundtable members are industry leaders who set the pace in building United Fresh's strength in areas that do not generate their own revenue. Members of Chairman's Roundtable enjoy special recognition throughout the year for their support.  For more information on the Chairman's Roundtable, please contact Director of Membership Miriam Miller at 202-303-3400 ext. 410.


New Member Welcome

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

Welcome
  • Fresh King, Homestead, FL

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.


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