( Brooke Park )

Companies, trade associations and other groups continue to offer help during the COVID-19 crisis, whether it’s a program to help feed people in an uncertain economic period or helping farmworkers stay safe.

Recent news in the fresh produce industry concerning the virus and disease, include these items.


A partnership with AeroFarms, Newark, N.J., and Matriark Foods and Table to Table is taking leftover vegetables to process into a stew that’s distributed to hungry people in New Jersey.

Matriark Foods and Table to Table received a $50,000 grant from ReFED COVID-19 Food Waste Solutions Fund for a program that has a goal of delivering more than 500,000 meals and offset more than a million pounds of greenhouse gases in the next three months, according to a news release.

The new program, FarmPlus to People, takes stems and greens from a second harvest at AeroFarms, and similar crop leftovers from other growers and Matriark Foods turns them into a stew that is distributed by Table to Table to feeding agencies in Bergen, Essex, Passaic and Hudson counties in New Jersey.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the challenges of accessibility and availability for much-needed fresh food, straining food system logistics of storage and distribution resulting in an increase in food waste at a time when so many are in need,” Ilene Isaacs, executive director of Table to Table, said in the release. “ … ReFED’s commitment to this project will have a significant impact on our ability to feed our hungry neighbors, while keeping a little less food from ending up in our landfills.”

Anna Hammond, founder and CEO of Matriark Foods, said in the release that the goal of the public-private partnership is to demonstrate that food waste can be diverted from landfills while providing jobs, and food for people who are hungry at the same time.

“COVID-19 has disrupted the regular flow of the food supply chain, making it difficult to get fresh, healthy food to the people who need it most and increasing the amount of food insecurity,” Alexandria Coari, capital and innovation director at ReFED, said in the release. “The work of organizations like Table to Table and Matriark Foods is urgent, and we’re excited to get them the critical support they need from the ReFED COVID-19 Food Waste Solutions Fund.”

AIB International

AIB International, Manhattan, Kan., has added Pandemic Prepared Certification to its offerings.

The company, which inspects and certifies produce and other food companies for food safety programs, launched the program in July and within a week more than 1,000 food and beverage companies had expressed interest, according to senior communications manager Mark Crouser.

“We developed the Pandemic Prepared Certification because the food and beverage supply chain were ill-prepared for a global pandemic and the associated disruption it created in nearly every aspect of business operations world-wide,” Steve Robert, global vice president of sales, marketing and innovation, said in a news release.

“This new Pandemic Prepared Certification elevates critical planning across the food and beverage supply chain for facilities like fresh fruit and produce packinghouses,” Crouser said in an e-mail. “This includes establishing and maintaining best practices for in five key areas for employees, facilities and production inputs.”

The five areas are:

  • Pandemic crisis management;
  • Supply chain management;
  • Intermittent operations planning management;
  • Health crisis mitigation measures and management; and
  • Pre-requisite program review.

AIB International collaborated with representatives of government, academia and international agencies, according to the release. Besides the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S., AIB International worked with government agencies in Canada, Australia/New Zealand, the United Kingdom, India and Europe. Recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency were also included, according to the release.

California Farmworker Foundation

The California Farmworker Foundation, Delano, has a new campaign, La Seguridad Empieza con Usted — Safety Starts with You — to highlight measures to control the spread of COVID-19.

The campaign is supported by the California Fresh Fruit Association and the California Table Grape Commission.
Campaign advertisements on Spanish-language radio stations encourage farmworkers to visit the foundation’s Facebook page, which includes safety practices and information on the pandemic and virus.

“The health of farmworkers and their families is just as essential as their work to keep the world fed,” Hernan Hernandez, foundation executive director, said in a news release. “Farming operations have adopted safety procedures to keep workers safe on the job.  This campaign provides our communities with more Spanish-language information and resources about the pandemic, including the dispelling of COVID-19 myths, to better educate everyone on the need to make safe choices in their personal lives.” 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the California Farmworker Foundation has also distributed personal protection equipment, help fight food insecurity and provided virtual medical consultations, according to the release. The foundation has a free hotline for workers to seek additional information on staying safe at 661-446-4077.

The Packer

The Packer is offering a virtual roundtable on tough supply chain issues that brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event is at 1 p.m. Pacific on Aug. 19; registration is free.

A panel of industry experts will offer their experience in dealing with challenges from the pandemic and how they’ve adapted to a new way of doing business. They’ll discuss long-term strategies and solutions and topics will cover the full range of the supply chain.

Tom Karst, editor of The Packer, will moderate the roundtable. Panelists are:

  • Jeff Newman, vice president of supply chain visibility solution sales at CalAmp;
  • Paul Ramson, director of solutions architecture at Tomra/Compac;
  • Jeff Gullickson, president of Western Growers Insurance Services;
  • Dan Steere, co-founder and CEO of Abundant Robotics; and
  • Mohan Ramankutty, senior director of sales and consulting at Swisslog Logistics.

The virtual roundtable is sponsored by CalAmp, Tomra/Compac and Western Growers Insurance Services.

For more coverage of the pandemic, see The Packer's COVID-19 landing page.

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