(UPDATED COVERAGE, Oct. 16) The booths were dismantled and trucked away from the Anaheim Convention Center more than a week ago, but what vendors at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2009 left behind will continue to boost spirits in Southern California.
Exhibitors donated nearly 250,000 pounds of fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. The fresh produce donation was the largest ever made to the Southern California food bank, according to a news release.
“It will do a tremendous amount of good,” said Kathie Monroe, communications associate for Second Harvest. “The warehouse staff worked very hard to get it all distributed.”
A small army of food bank volunteers and staff collected the fresh produce from the convention center and distributed the food via the food bank’s refrigerated trucks to more than 400 local agencies affiliated with Second Harvest, she said.
With non-perishables being the norm at the food banks, they rarely enjoy the luxury of an abundance of fresh produce, Monroe said. The donation was so large that Second Harvest was able to help similar agencies in other Southern California counties.
“The reach was tremendous,” she said.
Second Harvest and its affiliates serve more than 220,000 Orange County residents monthly. California has been particularly hard hit by the recession; the state’s unemployment rate is in double digits.
“The current economic hardship has resulted in a new demographic of those relying on assistance from food banks; we are witnessing some of last year’s donors as this year’s clients,” Joe Schoeningh, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank, said in the release. “The large quantity of fresh produce donated through the Produce Marketing Association provides a tremendous boost to our efforts to keep pace with the growing need.”
The working poor, children and seniors on fixed incomes are some of the top priorities for Second Harvest.
“The vendors were so generous, so great to work with,” Monroe said.
The eagerness of private industry to help is not new to Second Harvest.
“We have a fresh food rescue program where we partner with various grocery stores and restaurants,” Monroe said.
The generosity of the vendors also is not new to the Produce Marketing Association staff.
“This remarkable partnership involving the convention center, the food bank and hundreds of generous Fresh Summit exhibitors is making it possible for thousands of Orange County residents in need to enjoy the delicious and nutritious bounty our global produce industry has to offer,” Bryan Silbermann, president of the Produce Marketing Association, said in the release. “Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption of all consumers is one of PMA’s core purposes.”