( Photo courtesy amoon ra; Source Unsplash; graphic by Brook Park )

Bolthouse Farms continues its donation program, Argentine lemon importer Salix Fruits reports high demand and New York agencies releases guidelines in this latest roundup of COVID-19-related news.

Bolthouse Farms

Bolthouse Farms, Bakersfield, Calif., has continued its donation program throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with truckloads of carrots, juices and other products going to organization in California and other states.

“Our long-term commitment to food banks became even more important during the pandemic and guided our giving efforts toward these organizations in our local communities and across North America to deliver healthy, fresh food to those in need during these challenging times,” President Bill Levisay said in a news release.

The company has donated more than 2.5 million pounds of carrots and nearly 200,000 cases of juices, smoothies, protein shakes and dressings.

Employee programs have also generated more than $60,000 in donations to Feeding America, which tripled in size with matching donations from the company as well as Bolthouse CEO Jeff Dunn, according to the release.

“We’re thankful to have a mission-driven company like Bolthouse Farms located in our area,” Maureen Andrew, food solicitor for the Community Action Partnership of Kern Food Bank, said in the release. “They are an extremely important donor in our community and their support and generous donations have made a meaningful impact on our community – our clients having access to healthy foods is critical in times of need.”

Empire State Producers Expo

The New York State Vegetable Growers Association and Cornell Cooperative Extension decided to transform the annual Becker Forum and Empire State Producers Expo into a virtual conference Jan. 11-14. 

The association plans to continue its commitment to educate growers, despite the COVID-19 pandemic changing the landscape of networking and in-person educational events, according to a news release.

“We are looking forward to bringing in new and exciting speakers who have not been available to us in the past,” according to the release.

The conference will be available online to those who register. State Department of Environmental Conservation credits will be available. 

A full session list will be able this fall, and registration will open in November, according to the release. In the meantime, conference updates will be posted on the association website at www.nysvga.org.

Contact the association for questions at 585-993-0775 or [email protected]

FDA/OSHA

Federal agencies have teamed up to publish a checklist to help the food adjust to changes to ensure supply chain continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have developed resources to help food industry employers continue or resume operations, according to a news release.

The FDA and OSHA developed the “Employee Health and Food Safety Checklist for Human and Animal Food Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”  

The checklist covers two areas: employee health, screening and how to social distance to minimize the spread of COVID-19, and food safety requirements with information on closures, changes among food safety staff and changes in suppliers.

“Some or all of this checklist may be useful to establishments that are growing, harvesting, packing, manufacturing, processing, or holding human and animal food regulated by FDA,” including produce, according to the release. “This checklist also provides useful information for foreign facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food intended for consumption in the United States.”

NY State agencies

The New York State departments of agriculture and markets, health and labor are encouraging farmers to register for the COVID-19 testing initiative for seasonal workers.

The state is making available free, on-farm voluntary COVID-19 testing to agricultural workers in Wayne, Orleans, Genesee, Ulster and Clinton counties, which see the highest number of out-of-state workers during harvest season, according to a news release. 

“As we have seen an increase in clusters associated with farms that employ seasonal workers who have traveled from out of state, this testing initiative will help us isolate any individuals who test positive and prevent the virus from spreading,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in the release. 

Participating farms must: 

“Providing education and bringing testing directly to our communities will ensure we are reaching the seasonal workers on our farms for this upcoming harvest,” state Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball said in the release.

Answers to frequently asked questions are in English  and in Spanish.  A flyer being distributed in the counties is available in English and in Spanish.

The prevention and testing initiative also includes partnering with county health departments, community health care providers, county Cornell Cooperative Extensions and the New York Farm Bureau.

Farmers will continue to work with local health departments to address screening, isolation and quarantine status, and housing needs of their workers.
As essential workers, farmworkers are allowed to continue working while quarantined, as long as certain conditions are met, according to the release.

Salix Fruits

Salix Fruits, Atlanta, saw imports of Argentine lemons into the U.S. and other countries remain strong, as COVID-19 pushed citrus demand up for all varieties.

The U.S. imported 21.89 tons of lemons, more than 1.2 million boxes, according to Salix Fruits.

“The inconveniences and delays caused by the mandatory quarantine due to the coronavirus brought delays in the end of March shipments, but Argentina was able to start its shipments to Russia, Ukraine and Canada without problems, in April for the U.S., and in early May for Europe,” Juana Elortondo, sales manager, said in a news release.

The company added two executive sales professionals “to be closer to customers in the U.S.,” and expanded the supermarket database in the U.S., Flortondo said in the release.

According to the release, the outlook is positive, despite the “social, preventive and compulsory isolation provided by the Argentine government to fight the pandemic, commercial activity did no suffer great consequences.”

 Salix Fruits launched an app allowing customers to download information on the company’s fruit and prices. 

“Currently it works as an excellent e-commerce tool, especially to have all the documentation of the operation and to know the status of the order online, and in the future they hope that this tool will evolve into a true marketplace where producers come together and customers without any pandemic limiting business,” according to the release.

For more news related to the pandemic, see The Packer's COVID-19 news updates.

Northeast Editor Amy Sowder contributed to this article.

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