( Graphic by Brooke Park )


The produce and allied industries continue to help during the COVID-19 crisis.

With efforts from growers, shippers, trade groups, wholesalers and foodservice companies, fresh produce is finding its way to consumers who are facing unemployment and other problems as the pandemic continues. Those efforts include the following updates on COVID-19 responses from the industry.

FreshDirect/Restaurant Associates

Online retailer FreshDirect and Restaurant Associates, New York City, have created RA Kitchen, putting chefs back to work, creating meals for FreshDirect to deliver.

The partnership gives FreshDirect a rotating menu of prepare meals and brings Restaurant Associates employees back to work, according to a news release. With every meal purchased at RA Kitchen, Restaurant Associates will donate a meal to NY Common Pantry.

“The devastation this health pandemic is causing across the New York restaurant industry hits close to home, as I started my career in restaurants, as a cook,” David McInerney, CEO and co-founder of FreshDirect, said in the release. “By partnering with Restaurant Associates, we have the opportunity to bring some of their employees back to work, while offering our customers great meal solutions, and best of all, continuing to give back and support NY Common Pantry in their efforts to serve the many food insecure people in our community.

FreshDirect customer have donated more than $340,000 to NY Common Pantry through point-of-sale donations, according to the release.

Fresh Produce Association of the Americas

Southern Arizona produce companies are working with area leaders to distribute fresh produce to food banks, according to the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Nogales, Ariz.

FPAA members have donated to organizations in Santa Cruz County, where Nogales is located, as well as Cochise and Pima counties. On April 16-17, almost 1,700 families received food boxes, according to a news release.

“The response from this community has been so positive, and we know the need is also great,” Allison Moore, vice president of the FPAA, said in the release. “With so many people working together to make this possible, we are hoping to make a difference in our community at such a difficult time.” 

FPAA Chairman Scott Vandervoet, president of Vandervoet & Associates, said association membership will continue to make food available as needed.

“There are lots of people doing their part during this challenge, from healthcare workers to CBP officers at our ports, first responders, and more,” he said in the release. “Our strength in Santa Cruz County happens to be fresh produce, so that’s what we’re bringing to the table to help our community and our country.” 

Honeybear Brands

Apple grower Honeybear Brands, Elgin, Minn., is partnering with charities to distribute apples to people in need, including Second Harvest and Health Fair 11.

Honeybear’s Eat One Share One Pazazz Apple Challenge asks consumers to share a pic of them eating a Pazazz apple on Facebook, and Honeybear will donate an apple to a food bank. Retailers are participating, according to a news release, and the goal is 100,000 apple donations.

“We are fortunate that we have such a strong apple crop this year,” Don Roper, vice president of sales and marketing, said in the release. “Fresh produce is so essential to a healthy diet, especially at a time when people cannot get to the store as often as they might like to.”

Honeybear is donating 1,500 apples to Health Fair 11’s You Matter Snack Pack initiative, which gives nutritious snacks to people affected by the pandemic. Health Fair 11, a Twin Cities NBC affiliate program, will distribute the snack packs to four local charities.

Nature Fresh Farms

Nature Fresh Farms, Leamington, Ontario, is sending out a thank you to its colleagues in the fresh produce industry for helping keep people fed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The greenhouse grower has released a video to recognize the industry and its role in ensuring the stability of the food supply.

“Many people – our people – are working above and beyond so communities across North America can have continued access to fresh food keeping families nourished,” Matt Quiring, director of sales, said in a news release. “That is why, alongside our healthcare workers, first responders, and grocery store staff members, we are recognizing the heroic efforts of farm workers at every level of the food supply chain.” 

Nature Fresh Farms recognizes the role of retailers, suppliers, customers, communities truck drivers and other industry members in feeding people, according to the release.

“Now more than ever, people are in need of nutritional fruits and vegetables to maintain their health amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Nature Fresh Farms team is here to help provide,” according to the release.

Produce Alliance

The Produce Alliance Foundation’s Produce Box Project: Nourish our Frontlines continued to gain steam in mid-April. 

The program distributes boxes of produce to health care professionals with the help of Chicago-based Produce Alliance’s national network of members. Boxes have been distributed to health care facilities in Los Angeles, Palm Beach Garden, Denver, Chicago and Washington, D.C. More than 1,000 boxes have been distributed since the program began, according to a news release.

Another 1,000 boxes will be distributed the week of April 20.

Companies that have participated in the program include Nature’s Produce, Vernon, Calif., Premier Produce, Fort Lauderdale, Get Fresh Produce, Bartlett, Ill., Keany Produce & Gourmet, Landover, Md., and What Chefs Want, Denver.

“We are thrilled that the produce box project has taken off, and that more hospitals and individuals want to get involved. We look forward to this program growing even further, and to be able to provide fresh produce to as many frontline workers as possible,” Produce Alliance Foundation President Melissa Melshenker Ackerman said in the release.

Donations are being accepted through GoFundMe; questions can be sent to [email protected]

To see what other companies are doing to help during the crisis, visit The Packer's COVID-19 page.

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