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Just doing the right thing

In the highly perishable business of fresh produce, time is not always our friend. Sometimes fruits and vegetables just won’t stand up to a cross-country shipment, or the size or appearance isn’t quite right for a particular customer.
So, what do we do with these unsalable items?
All food companies have excess product and, instead of dumping it, many of us have established regular donations to our local food banks. My mother, Frieda, established this practice at our company long ago.
There is also a fantastic organization called Share Our Selves through which many well-known and community-minded chefs and restaurateurs donate THEIR leftover foods. 
So, last week, we received a visit from the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. When the two ladies arrived, they announced that they were giving us an award for being the second largest donor of fresh produce in 2011! (The number one donor, Orange County Produce, is a close family friend of ours.)
From Left: Jackie Caplan Wiggins, Tricia Espinoza of Second Harvest, Frieda Caplan, Alex Jackson, and Karen Caplan

The award from Second Harvest – very cute!

As we were talking and taking photos, Frieda started recounting stories of how her friend Mickey Weiss really started the whole produce and food bank connection many years ago. Robert Strube was another produce industry leader involved in this movement.

Then, my sister Jackie and I couldn’t resist. We had to ask the burning question:
“Isn’t it kind of strange to be giving out exotic fruits and vegetables to homeless or hungry people? Do they have any challenges with that?”
And that’s when we learned about the most amazing thing…
Second Harvest goes to our website to print out recipes and information on Frieda’s exotic produce – to share with the donations as they are picked up at their Mobile Pantry events!  The food bank realized that many of the pantry visitors didn’t know how to prepare some of our more exotic donations. So now they include the printed information in their displays, and people are trying new things!
The Second Harvest Mobile Pantry program is pretty innovative. Here’s how it works:
Mobile Pantry trucks arrive at the designated parking lot and set up a mini-farmers market to distribute the food to the needy. People line up to “shop” for the food they need. You can see a short video here.
These Mobile Pantries are such an innovative way to share donated food, and because they are set up like farmers markets, it preserves the personal dignity of those who are in need of food.
If you know of any food company, restaurant or grocery store with non-salable edible food, I hope you will encourage them to contact their local food bank (which will pick up the food themselves). Or, here is a connection to a national network.
If you want to donate your time, or host a Mobile Pantry at your place of business or church, they are always looking for support.
As our company, Frieda’s, celebrates 50 years of Changing the Way America Eats Fruits and Vegetables, it feels good to know that we are helping those who cannot afford to buy fresh produce.
Doing good, by doing the right thing, feels good to all of us.

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