( Brooke Park )

(UPDATED) Companies continue to find ways to help families during the pandemic across the country, from donations of fruits and vegetables to service helping agencies feed people.

Some recent COVID-19-related donations include the following news items.

DiSilva Fruit/Arrowfarms

DiSilva Fruit, Chelsea, Mass., has donated more than 300,000 pounds of fresh produce to area food banks since April.

The fruits and vegetables have been distributed to food banks, charities and community centers, according to a news release from DiSilva Fruit, an Arrowfarms company. The company has worked with three main partners: Chelsea Collaborative, Muslim Community Link and Food Link, with support from sister companies Gold Bell and Arrowfarms.

The company has donated 200,000 pounds to Chelsea Collaborative.

"We are so proud to be able to contribute to the health and well-being of so many families by providing access to wholesome food,” Nelly Czajkowski of DiSilva Fruit said in the release. “It’s more important than ever to support our neighbors and we'll continue to donate healthy, fresh food throughout the crisis via our wonderful community partners who are working so hard to distribute these vital resources."

Chelsea Collaborative feeds up to 11,000 families each week.

"We really appreciate all the produce DiSilva Fruit has sent over the past four months,” Tanairi Garcia of Chelsea Collaborative said in the release. “We’ve been able to step up and provide food for those in need in our community thanks to partners like them.”

Farmbox Direct

The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on consumer shopping habits, primarily the switch to grocery deliver services, has skyrocketed demand at fresh produce delivery company Farmbox Direct by 2,200%, with projections at $14 million in sales in 2020 and $28 million in 2021.

The company’s newer Farmbox RX program is seeing exponential growth as well.

Before the pandemic, CEO and Founder Ashley Tyrner’s main focus was direct-to-consumer delivery, with the Farmbox RX as a small add-on.

But the immense growth, consumer feedback and insurance company outreach, “it has been made crystal clear that consumers are realizing the importance and the need for easy online grocery shopping,” according to a news release, which cites “an avalanche” of insurance companies have expressed interest in Farmbox RX.

Farmbox RX is developing boxes designed for specific health needs, including boxes for diabetics and those with arthritis and other conditions.

Fresh Direct

Thousands of grocery boxes from FreshDirect, Bronx, N.Y., each week continue to be delivered to New Yorkers as the city extends its investment in Operation 5-Borough Food Drive.

New York City has paid $5 million for 4.3 million pounds of food so far, and an extension through September will bring the total contract value to approximately $9 million, according to a news release. 

FreshDirect will not profit from the commitment to purchase, package and deliver the food, according to the release.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, FreshDirect developed and launched the food drive with the five New York borough presidents.

“Food insecurity in New York City has almost doubled since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis,” FreshDirect CEO David McInerney said in the release. “As a food company, we want to do everything we can...”

Through the collaboration, FreshDirect has donated and distributed more than 215,000 boxes of food to residents, with borough presidents directing donations to partner institutions in their communities, according to the release.

“FreshDirect’s initial impulse to donate food in the earliest days of the crisis has evolved into their current contract to deliver hundreds of boxes of food as part of the GetFoodNYC programs,” Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer said in the release. “Like so many others, they’ve literally been lifesavers during the pandemic.”

Grimmway Farms

Grimmway Farms, Bakersfield, Calif., has donated more than a million pounds of carrots and other fresh produce, including Cal-Organic Farms vegetables, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company partnered with Kern County hospitals and California food banks, as well as relief efforts that provided produce to families in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Texas and Utah, according to a news release. A donation with Hy-Vee distributed 80,000 pounds of carrots in the Midwest.

“Our goal is to deliver fresh food to those who need it the most,” Jeff Huckaby, president of Grimmway Farms, said in the release. “We connected with organizations that share that responsibility. We’re all working toward a common goal to keep our communities safe and we’re committed to seeing this through together.”

More than half a million pounds of carrots have been provided to the California Association of Food Banks, which supplies 42 food banks serving 47 counties.

The company plans to continue donations locally and across the country, Huckaby said.

“Our founders promised to provide good value and service every day of the year,” he said in the release. “This year looks different than most, but through strong partnerships and a shared mission to feed the hungry we’re still able to deliver on that promise and ensure fresh food is available to those in need.”

IFCO

IFCO has donated 160 reusable plastic containers to the Meals on Wheels of Montgomery County, Texas.

The RPCs will be used to store and deliver 5,600 frozen meals each week to homebound seniors.

“We are incredibly grateful for the new partnership with IFCO, with such a generous donation enabling us to properly store all of our fresh produce and food,” Summer Day, president and CEO of the program, said in a news release.

“Now, more than ever, we want to step up and help our friends at Meals on Wheels Montgomery County get nutritious food to more people during this terrible crisis,” Dan Martin, president of IFCO North America, said in the release.

Polar King International

Polar King International, Thermodyne Foodservice Products and the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers have donated $10,000 to the Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana.

As of July 1, association member contributed almost $50,000 worth of time, money and food donations to local food banks; the association sent almost $50,000 to Feeding America, according to a news release.

“The funding in the past few months has been such an important part of COVID-19 hunger relief efforts,” Katie Savoie, director of development for the Community Harvest Food Bank, said in the release. “The $10,000 provided will help us give over 40,000 meals to families in need during these tough times.”

Progressive Produce

Progressive Produce, Los Angeles, has produced a video promoting healthy habits among its employees.

The video highlights the company’s core values, according to a news release, and mentions five safety practices, including washing hands, social distancing and sanitizing.

"As our industry continues to keep the fresh produce supply chain flowing, it’s always important that we all practice safety," Oscar Guzman, director of marketing and sales, said in the release.

The video features numerous Progressive Produce employees and has subtitles in Spanish.

Virginia Cooperative Extension

The Virginia Cooperative Extension has been creating solutions to help farmers adapt to challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, from disruptions in markets and labor force and to changes in business plans.

“Farmers who had contracts with restaurants, schools, or universities have had to shift their focus from those institutional market channels to direct-to-consumer sales with online e-commerce software, drive-through and curbside service, and modified community-supported agriculture models,” Eric Bendfeldt, Extension specialist and associate director for the Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation, said in a news release. “Virginia food banks and pantries are also reporting a large increase in participation and increasing demand for fresh produce and shelf-stable meat sources.”

Extension has offered web seminars for growers covering farm management during the pandemic, including a recent seminar on production strategies.

Virginia MarketMaker is also helping get food from the farm to consumers’ tables. 

Resources include:

  • The Small Farm Outreach Program, a part of Cooperative Extension at Virginia State University;
  • Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation, including a variety of COVID-19 resources; and
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension COVID-19 resource library.

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