( Brooke Park )

From highlighting the immunity-boosting properties of fresh citrus to taking an in-depth look at how the pandemic is affecting different sectors of the industry, companies continue to respond during the crisis.

Recent news items on the COVID-19 include the following items.

Bee Sweet Citrus

Bee Sweet Citrus, Fowler, Calif., has a month-long campaign focusing on citrus being a source of vitamin C and the fruit’s role in boosting immunity.

You, Me and Vitamin C is a strategic campaign in July, with consumer interest boosting the profile of citrus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the month, Bee Sweet will tailor its social media to promote the benefits of vitamin C, and ways consumers can supplement their immune system with citrus fruits, according to a news release.

“Our goal is to equip our audience with the knowledge they need to make healthy food choices, as well as promote the benefits of incorporating citrus fruits into their diet,” Monique Bienvenue, the company’s director of communications, said in the release.

Bee Sweet’s digital platforms will include variety-specific recipes, infographics and contests. As a Produce for Kids partner, Bee Sweet recipes and information will be a part the charity’s July 9 Twitter party, with a focus on health during the pandemic.

“When our marketing team initially spoke about the elements of this campaign, we knew that we wanted it to have something for everyone,” Bienvenue said in the release. “Whether you’re a parent looking for fun and creative ways to pass the time, or you’re a foodie interested in learning what makes citrus so special – we’ve designed this campaign with everyone in mind.”  

DiMare Fresh

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded DiMare Fresh a second contract through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

The company has packed and delivered more than 1.43 million boxes with 27.25 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to more than 225 nonprofit organizations, according to a news release. The USDA approved a $24.36 million contract for DiMare through the program in May.

“Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the need for food assistance has increased drastically and the Houston Food Bank has ramped up its distribution significantly,” Brian Greene, president and CEO of the Houston Food Bank, said in a news release. “As we work to provide a steady flow of nutritious, healthy food to our communities, this support from DiMare Fresh is absolutely crucial.”

The first wave of food box contracts, which were announced May 8, ran through the end of June. New contracts cover July 1 to Aug. 31.

“As a family-owned business that’s over 90-years-old, and as farmers ourselves — we are appreciative to be involved with the USDA and this very worthy, and much needed, Farmers to Families Food Box Program,” Tony DiMare, an owner of the company, said in the release. “We would like to thank our suppliers in the farming and shipping communities, as well as our people who have stayed committed and have been working non-stop since day one delivering the boxes.

The Food Institute

The Food Institute is hosting a web seminar on how COVID-19 has affected the produce industry.

The hour-long seminar, which starts at 2 p.m. Eastern July 13, is called “What’s Happening in Produce — Latest Trends Impacting Consumers, Retail vs. Foodservice and the Supply Chain,” and features Produce Marketing Association CEO Cathy Burns and Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at 210 Analytics.

Registration for the web seminar is online. A link to slides from the presentation and a recording of the seminar will be available following the event, according to a news release.

Issues to be covered during the seminar include:

  • Where to find up-to-date information on buying patterns of fresh produce during the crisis;
  • Benefits of a deep-dive into current spending data for retail and foodservice; and
  • How the crisis has affected the overall fresh produce industry.


FreshDirect, Bronx, N.Y., has raised $1 million in donations for NY Common Pantry in less than five months.

In February, FreshDirect enabled customers to contribute to the food pantry through point-of-sale donations ranging from $1.25 (the cost of one pantry meal) to $100 at FreshDirect.com, according to a news release. 

When pantry volunteers were no longer available due to the COVID-19 crisis, FreshDirect turned over part of its operation to sourcing, packing and delivering food to the NY Common Pantry facilities.

“We partnered with NY Common Pantry to introduce our customers to the organization’s great work through onsite content and the opportunity to donate. But the COVID pandemic revealed another level of food insecurity, as well as challenges getting food into the hands of those in need,” FreshDirect CEO David McInerney said in the release. “The response from FreshDirect customers and our own employees has been nothing short of remarkable.”

Through the partnership, NY Common Pantry expects to serve more than 1 million meals to its Choice Pantry members in 2020.

Port of Heuneme

The Port of Hueneme (Calif.), with partners Del Monte Fresh Produce and other groups, have hosted 20 food distribution events across Ventura County recently.

The community events are part of the Feeding the Frontline: Feeding our Farmworkers campaign to help feed field workers and others deemed essential workers in the fresh produce industry. Other groups with similar events include the City of Hueneme, Clinica Del Campo Real and Lujan Transport Inc. The latest event was June 27 at Orvene S. Carpenter Community Center in Port Heuneme.

“Our work does not stop at the docks,” Oxnard Harbor District President Jess Ramirez said in a news release. “It actually continues to impact the community as soon as our customers receive the goods that they are also contributing, to maintain our community food distributions to particularly those directly affected by the pandemic.”

During the events, more than 10,000 families have been served, with bananas, strawberries and other produce part of the giveaways, according to the release. The port’s Banana Festival, usually in September, is being substituted for COVID-19 relief efforts, according to the release, with the agreement of the Oxnard Harbor District Commissioners, according to the release.

The port moves $9.5 billion in goods a year, according to the release, ranking as a top 10 U.S. port year after year for fruits and vegetables.

Port of Oakland

The Port of Oakland (Calif.) is curtailing Fiscal Year 2021 spending plans because of the COVID-19 crisis, with a 16% drop due to a decline in cargo and air traffic.

Port commissioners recently approved the FY 2021 plan, with a projected $432.5 million in operating and capital expenditures, a drop from the previous year’s budget of $513.6 million, according to a news release. The new fiscal year starts July 1.

The budget is based on “best estimates of how our business may recover, assuming that our communities and country make slow but steady progress in containing the COVID-19 virus,” Danny Wan, Port of Oakland executive director, said in the release.

The Oakland Airport is part of the port system, and with passenger volume off from 80% to 96%, it could take up to three years for an aviation sector recovery.

The 2021 budget includes $19.1 million of federal coronavirus relief funding, and an additional $25.5 million will be used in 2022 and 2023, according to the release.

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