Mike HornickChef Elena Salsedo of Sweet Elena's prepares her I Love Produce cipollini onion tart at the Produce Marketing Association Foodservice Conference in Monterey. Children's menu items were a focus of the conference. MONTEREY, Calif. — Three years after the Foodservice 2020 initiative launched, the Produce Marketing Association is still pursuing the goal of doubling fresh produce consumption in restaurants and schools.
“The work of the Foodservice 2020 committee has really permeated every single thing that PMA does,” Bryan Silbermann said at the annual PMA Foodservice Conference and Expo in Monterey. “We have refocused this event on building consumption.”
PMA continues to partner with the National Restaurant Association and the International Foodservice Distributors Association on the initiative, said Lorna Christie, PMA executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Some of the Foodservice 2020 steering committee’s 22 members comprise a work group that plans the conference.
“All educational activities and special events are developed in accord with the goals developed by the think tank,” Christie said. “We reformatted the conference to help us achieve the 2020 goals. Key elements of this year’s programming are consistent with NRA programming. They have a focus on kids’ healthy menu items, and we’ve devoted Saturday’s chef competition to that with kids as celebrity judges.”
Beyond the conference, communications and educational activity — from Web seminars and editorials to presentations to key NRA committees — continue to be done jointly, Christie said.
“If (NRA president) Dawn Sweeney is at the White House talking about healthier menus, often we’ll mention the work she is doing with the PMA,” she said. “The partnership has been a critical part of the first phase of our efforts. We’re raising awareness among both the restaurant and produce industries about the opportunity and profitability of bringing fresh produce to the plate.”
Still, some want to see the 2020 goals pursued more vigorously.
“The NRA has taken a strong interest in fresh produce, but it’s not apparent that it’s the collaborative effort we necessarily envisioned three years ago,” said Tim York, president of Salinas-based Markon Cooperative and a former member of the 2020 steering committee.
“I am disappointed in all three partners that they did not embrace at a major strategic and senior management level what seemed like a very great opportunity for the produce, restaurant and distribution industries to all work together for the collective good of our ultimate consumers,” York said.
“We’ll continue to move forward to hopefully change that perception,” Christie said in response. “We can always do more and better to be sure we’re focusing our efforts in the right areas.”
Consumption has been difficult to quantify, but produce offerings on menus remain on the rise, she said.