In disruptive times we often see the most creative and empathetic solutions rise to the surface. Across the country, fresh produce growers are donating food to feed their communities, fresh produce distributors are developing new models to redirect their restaurant business while also supporting local food banks, shelters and other essential businesses, and school nutrition professionals are still providing meals to millions of students on a daily basis, ensuring access to healthy foods while school is closed.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, I began my Chairmanship of United Fresh Start Foundation, a new volunteer role for me, but a familiar opportunity to continue to carry out my passion of ensuring kids and families have access to fresh produce where they need it most. As Chair, I want to share the stories and efforts of companies across the supply chain that are meeting our mission, increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables for children and their families, while finding new and creative ways to collaborate during this time of uncertainty.

  • In California, Bobalu Berries connected with the Oxnard School District to arrange donations of fresh strawberries to students and families picking up weekly food packages; Sunkist Growers donated citrus to the Elk Grove School District near Sacramento as well as to area food banks; and Gold Coast Packing is partnering with the local Boys & Girls Club in Santa Maria to distribute fresh produce to families in need. Additionally, Grimmway Enterprises in Bakersfield continues to provide local food banks with fresh produce as they help the underserved in the hardest hit areas of the Central Valley.
  • Through their creativity and connections, DNO Produce in Ohio is offering produce boxes, and with each that’s purchased they’re donating a produce box to communities and kids directly affected by school closures. In addition, FreshDirect, has partnered with all five New York City borough presidents to launch a citywide food drive to donate family-sized grocery boxes to New Yorkers in need in the most vulnerable communities.
  • In the mid-Atlantic, we applaud the work of Keany Produce & Gourmet, which has donated over $100,000 of fresh produce to food banks and non-profit partners in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC.

There are many more stories like these. We invite you to read about the goodwill across the industry. Visit for more. We also want to hear what you’re doing in your own community! Share your stories with us on our United Fresh Start Foundation Facebook Page and we’ll work hand-in-hand to spotlight the generosity and innovative solutions of our industry.

Our story does not begin and end with generosity. The United Fresh team also has been working to ensure that kids and their families’ needs are met with much-needed aid. Yesterday's stimulus package includes the following relief efforts:

  • Child Nutrition Programs –$8.8 billion of broad authority to USDA to support programs like school meals, Child and Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP), summer meals, and WIC, including increasing enrollment, food purchases and pilot projects.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- $15.51 billion to cover increase in participation due to unemployment.
  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) – $450 million for the distribution of emergency food assistance through community partners, including food banks. Of this amount, $250 million is to purchase commodities, and $150 million is for costs associated with storing and distributing those commodities.
  • Charitable Donations: Increases the limitation on deductions for contributions of food inventory from 15% to 25%. For corporations, the 10% limitation is increased to 25% of taxable income.

But there is more work to be done. We are urging USDA to do the following:

  • FFVP – allow schools flexibility to convert FFVP dollars into fresh produce packs for students at curbside meals.
  • WIC – increase the monthly cash value benefit for fruits and vegetables to $15/ month for all participants.
  • Redistribution – purchase fresh fruits and vegetables to be redistributed to those in need.

I look forward to the day when we can gather and celebrate the generosity of our industry and the successful work we’ve done to continue to feed America – especially those who need our help the most.

Click here for more COVID-19 coverage and how it is affecting the refrigerated and frozen foods industry.