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Produce Business

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American Food & Ag Exporter

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While Brighter Bites Steps Up With Retail Voucher Program And Participation In USDA’s Farmers-To-Families Food Box Project, Produce Industry Heroes Are Needed To Provide Product, Distribution And Funding

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, May 14, 2020

It has been a long time since our first mention of Rich Dachman in the Pundit:

Dachman To Head Sysco’s Produce Division

But we’ve remained engaged:

2018 London Produce Show’s Thought-Leader Breakfast Features All-Star Cast Of Industry Luminaries

Foodservice Forum At New York Produce Show Puts Produce First On Restaurant Menus

Set Your Alarm For Wednesday, December 7, As 10 Heavyweight Thought Leaders Take The Stage At New York Produce Show’s Keynote Breakfast

Industry Veterans And Rising Stars Volunteer To Lead University Interchange Mentorship Program

“IDEATION FRESH” Foodservice Forum At New York Produce Show And Conference To Tackle Produce Procurement ‘Disconnects’

Now, at this moment of pandemic, a lifetime of preparation has put Rich in a situation where he can do a lot of good for the world.

We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out how:

Rich Dachman
CEO
Brighter Bites
Houston, Texas

Q: Long before the COVID-19 crisis, we were keen to distinguish that the Brighter Bites foundational platform and model were unique standouts from other food donation programs, not only in its mission to get fresh produce to families in need, but to change eating behaviors based on scientific research, the use of evidence-based strategies and prolonged data tracking to justify its effectiveness.

In a memorable and dynamic Q&A, Lisa Helfman, founder of Brighter Bites, and Dr. Shreela Sharma, co-founder, brilliantly laid out the case for this scientific approach to increase produce consumption and create long term consumers.

Currently, there has been a surge in food insecurity, with reports of food banks overwrought by escalating demand... What ways have you been able to pivot to keep your program viable for Brighter Bites families? And have you expanded your reach to help more people being affected by the crisis? It seems like quite an undertaking to coordinate, especially since schools were the central vehicle Brighter Bites used to connect with families to educate and distribute produce...

A: With the coronavirus, the socio-economic divide has been exacerbated. There’s an elevated precedent to figure out a way to help people eat healthy foods to boost their immune systems. And now with the economic downturn, people are requiring assistance more than ever.

I have participated in our distributions… you sit there for hours, you bag produce up, and you do it for multiple, multiple pallets. I had to leave for a meeting after packing bags for 3 hours, and as I was driving away, there were still blocks and blocks of cars lined up, as families waited to pick up their Brighter Bites bags. That day, distribution started at 10:00 am, and cars were lining up at 8:00 am. The need is dire. It’s extraordinarily sad but gratifying that we can do something about it.

Partnering with the Houston Food Bank and the YMCA of Greater Houston, Brighter Bites is distributing hundreds of thousands of pounds of free, fresh, immune-boosting produce to more than 20,000 Houston families each week at different locations across the city at a time when they need it most. 

Q: How has the coronavirus crisis impacted the Brighter Bites mission?

A: Our mission is creating community health through fresh food. Our mission has always been, and continues to be, to get fresh produce to our families, and to influence their eating behavior.

Right now, you see a lot of articles showing it is more important than ever to be healthy. People are seeing their immune systems are a differentiator and important to maintain in deterring COVID-19. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables and having a healthy lifestyle are a great deterrent. So, that fits with our mission beautifully. To answer your question, our method of execution has changed, but our mission hasn’t changed.

Q: The industry always walks a fine line with legal health claims linked to increased fresh produce consumption. Can you elaborate on these links as it relates to COVID-19?

A: I can point to a recent New York Times article: Obesity Linked to Severe Coronavirus Disease, Especially for Younger Patients. It clearly referenced obesity as the number one or two cause for hospital stays. Our purpose is to help our families reduce obesity and eat healthier. So, definitely, there’s a correlation there.

Jane Brody’s article, How Poor Diet Contributes to Coronavirus Risk, reports a higher incidence of COVID-19 in lower income communities, where the obesity epidemic is more prevalent, along with the diet-related diseases that usually come along with obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease... all these things that are connected. Obesity can be controlled by dietary behavior.  

Q: Could we delve deeper into the latest developments at Brighter Bites, and the two main program paths you’re pursuing:

A: Beyond providing the fresh produce, nutrition education is a big part of what we do. We’ve converted to a long-distance learning model, where we are connecting with our families online and through social media so they can continue to receive the education that is an important part of our program.

We send our family newsletter on a weekly basis, and many of our cities are doing their own digital outreach. As part of our communication strategy, we are developing an app to give direct access to families, to connect at a higher level. As we expand and adapt to this new world, I think that’s critical. We have a targeted cookbook with multiple healthy recipes that we’ve made available on our website in English and ultimately in Spanish. And our educational material is in English and Spanish.

Q: For context, could you walk us through how the program has operated before the coronavirus crisis, and the challenges in this new world?

A: Normally, for the most part with a few exceptions, we partner with our local food banks and they provide fresh produce for us. We identify an elementary school in a place, and the food bank delivers the produce to the school, 4 to 5 pallets, depending on how many Brighter Bites families are there. The parents work with volunteers, and they meet the truck along with the Brighter Bites team — we have two Brighter Bites employees generally at each school.

The volunteers will take the pallets off the truck and bring them to the cafeteria or assembly room, or designated space for the program. At that time, there’s an assembly line created, and people weigh product and determine how much of each product should go in the bag, and the packing process begins... put in three tomatoes, two mangos, etc., which creates a separate bag we keep track of.

It ends up that we require 8 to 10 different varieties in each set of bags — we’re not specific about what those are, but the amount we provide each family generally totals 20 to 25 pounds, with two bags. We also include nutritional educational materials in the bags, as well as on the tables. And that’s the morning.

Sometimes the volunteers will create 700, 800 or 1000 bags. Then, later in the day, the families come to pick up the bags. They need to be registered for our program, which happens at the beginning of the school year.

When the families arrive, they have a key card we scan, and that brings up all their information. We track all our families for what they pick up each week.

Q: Is there any stigma the kids or their parents feel about being part of the program?

A: When the families come in, it’s important we create a welcoming experience. We want them to feel comfortable. We want it to be fun and enjoyable, and not an intimidating situation, where they would be concerned about what anybody thinks. We create a fun experience for the kids and engage them.

There has to be a sample of one of the recipes — it could be a kale smoothie; it could be a broccoli carrot recipe... so the kids get to try something while they’re waiting in line to get their two bags of produce, and they ask lots of questions. During that time, we’re also teaching interactively, asking the kids, what should you eat, what’s a serving... So this creates around 50 to 55 servings.

Q: How do you measure whether the families actually consume those servings? And once the program ends, how can you be sure they don’t revert to their old habits? Isn’t that the ultimate challenge? Could you refresh my memory on the case studies you’ve conducted?

A: We track a lot of data, which really separates us from other programs. Our co-founder Dr. Shreela Sharma, a professor of epidemiology at UT School of Public Health, and her staff track significant data of eating habits, of how servings of produce are increased from beginning to end of the program and then what happens after the program is over. We’re able to track dozens and dozens of metrics, because we’re able to survey our families and get information over prolonged periods.

One of my most proud statistics is that on average, from the time when families started Brighter Bites and went through the program, they increased their servings of fruits and vegetables by 19 servings per family and maintained that increase years later.

Q: Over what time period, and how many families?

A: We tracked 100’s of families during the program, which is a duration of three years, and then we followed the families two years after it was over to evaluate the program’s effectiveness. This two-year case study, a non-randomized controlled comparative effectiveness trial, focused on 760 low-income first graders and their families at nine schools in Houston, Texas, during the 2013-15 school years.  Results were published in a scientific peer reviewed journal Preventive Medicine. [Editor’s note: you can read the full study here.]

Q: So, when you’re changing distribution strategies to accommodate the coronavirus upheaval, these are already Brighter Bites families familiar with the program?

A: As we’ve had to pivot, some of our distributions have been more general because we haven’t been able to do the program at the same schools we were at, so, we’re not reaching all the families. That’s why we started the voucher program, which is exclusively for our Brighter Bites families.

Just because we ran into hurdles with our traditional distribution, we didn’t want them to do without the food. The voucher program is the solution to make sure that 100 percent of our families aren’t missing out on the produce they have come to expect from our program.

Q: Uninterrupted distribution takes on elevated importance for Brighter Bites families, who face even more obstacles with the coronavirus crisis. In addition to upholding the tenants of the model... how important is the duration of how long a family stays on the program? Does it matter if it’s one year, two years or three years...?

A: Our model is to stay at one school for three years; we distribute eight weeks in the fall, and eight weeks in the spring. Our statistics show that the 16-week time period is the necessary time to change behavior. We also distribute in the summer, but that’s a little more loose as the kids aren’t in school, so we focus on the spring and the fall. Once we’ve been in a school three years, we change to a new school. If a school has been off the program for three years, they can get back on it.

Q: Could you provide more perspective on the scope of the program and what’s happening with your plans going forward?

A: Our program started in 2012 in Texas. Since then, we’ve delivered more than 27 million pounds of produce to over 275,000 families. Presently we are serving families who attend 100 schools in Houston, Dallas, Austin, New York City, Washington, D.C. (the Prince George, MD area), and also Southwest Florida, so we’re in six cities today. We have a three-year expansion plan to expand to eight more cities.

We have an immediate plan this year to expand to two more cities, the Rio Grande Valley, McAllen, TX area, and Salinas, CA, where we’ve been requested to come. It is still in our plans to expand later in the year, but everything is in flux now. It may be 2021 until we actually expand because of reopening of schools and food banks, which we depend on, and are so appreciative of. We need to be careful not to put extra pressure on them as they have so much to do. We’ll just have to wait and see about our expansion plans in the future.

Q: How do you compensate for variances in different food bank capacity and infrastructure? Is this where partnerships with suppliers and foodservice distributors can help?

A: The food bank is always our first choice. We’ve found opportunity also connecting a foodservice distributor in some of our cities to help us make deliveries. For example, the McAllen, TX foodbank didn’t have the capacity to make deliveries. It didn’t have the logistics and ability to warehouse product. So, a distributor in McAllen has agreed to do our logistics and warehousing.

Because we’re not there, I’d rather just keep the name of the foodservice distributor generic for now. And we’ve been doing that in other cities as well, long before COVID-19, outsourcing foodservice distributors for our logistics.

We do have some great partners with distribution, first and foremost, the food banks are really amazing in all our cities we do business with... I’d like to highlight Hardies in Austin and Dallas. FreshPoint is a great partner of ours, as well as D’Arrigo in New York and Coastal in Washington D.C. They are just remarkable partners in what they’ve done for us.

Coastal and D’Arrigo provide a portion of our produce. They donate on a weekly basis their own product under normal circumstances to keep our program alive and healthy. The food bank is giving as well. They are our core partners in those areas.

Hardies works as our food bank in Austin. We use their warehouse and their trucks. They receive all our donations. And then FreshPoint, specifically in Dallas, helps us with our logistics. This is a great partnership, where the North Texas Food Bank didn’t have enough resources and trucks to make deliveries to schools, so we asked FreshPoint, and they agreed to do it.

There are a few suppliers that have been extraordinary partners for us, and we wouldn’t be able to do without them. Lipman is a top supplier. Walmart is an incredible funding partner. Other key suppliers include Taylor Farms Texas, Mann Packing (Del Monte Fresh), Southern Specialties, Chelan Fresh, Church Brothers and Tom Lange.

RETAIL VOUCHER PROGRAM

Q: How did the idea for the retail voucher program come about?

A: We had a challenge where our schools closed. Many of our families were either concerned about coming out, or they were not in a reasonable location for them to come and pick up their Brighter Bites bags.

Our team was challenged to find an option, and they came up with this idea. People need to go to the grocery store anyway. If we can find a way to integrate the Brighter Bites program into what’s in their routine to get food, that’s great. Could we give them a voucher to allow them to get up to $25 in produce at the supermarket, to provide them with this type of food that is so important right now? How do we get produce to our families when the normal supply chain is broken? This is a way we could do that.

Right now, we have two retail partners (H-E-B and Southeastern Grocers, parent company of Winn-Dixie stores) to launch the program, and we’re trying to get more. The coupon, a three-fold piece of paper, has the retailer’s name on it, showing the partnership. Before we send out the coupon to our families, we communicate with them ahead of time, a few weeks in advance, so they understand it.  The vouchers have different time frames for usage, anywhere from 10 days, to two weeks, to six weeks depending on the city. They shop for their produce at the participating store, and then they get a $25 credit at the register.

Q: How do you communicate with the families regarding the voucher program, and are you able to monitor how it’s working?

A: I’d like to say that our team is really close to their families. We generally communicate through email and text. We didn’t have their home addresses because we never needed them. Our team went on an aggressive adventure to reach out to our families. They created a registration form, and said, here’s what we’re doing… if you’d like to participate, please enter your home address and you will receive this voucher.

Within a week to ten days, we were able to get as much as 70 to 75 percent of families’ addresses, and we’re still looking for 100 percent. It was incredible… literally everyone making phone calls to our families. We’re talking about over 10,000 addresses in the Houston and Austin area alone.

Q: H-E-B is an ideal partner to jumpstart the retail voucher program, as a pioneering supporter of Brighter Bites, a collaboration bridged through Lisa Helfman...

A: Our founder Lisa Helfman works for H-E-B, and she was obviously instrumental in developing this partnership, and we’re really grateful for that. What we asked H-E-B to do for our families in Houston and Austin, and then Winn-Dixie for our families in Southwest Florida, as well was ask if they would be willing to give our families a voucher, not a gift card, because if you give a gift card and it’s not used, you still pay for it. If we give a voucher, we only pay for what’s redeemed.

Could you create a voucher that can only be used for fresh produce and we want to value this at $25? And would you be willing to partner with us, and even discount that so you’re helping with the donation? Other organizations agreed to help out and discount the coupon. H-E-B went as far as paying for the printing of the coupon themselves. These are great retail partners to allow us to get this program started.

The H-E-B Houston, Austin vouchers started getting mailed out. We intend to do the vouchers for our families every other week for a three-month time period, because we know that $25 in produce is about the value that we normally give them. So, this way they can continue to get that same amount of produce.

Q: Will you be able to collect data to monitor the success of the program in keeping with the Brighter Bites model? It could be interesting to learn about the amount and types of produce items the families choose at the supermarket, since you won’t be selecting the produce for them...

A: The really great news, which we’re all excited about, is we’re actually able to track the purchases, and get the data.

Q: That type of information could provide a whole new level of insights. Will the retailers be sharing that data, or will you be gathering that information through the families?

A: We can understand if the families go out and purchase the produce, what are they attracted to, what are they going to buy. Let me just add, being a produce industry veteran… this is what I call a win-win-win, because the product is being purchased, promotion for the grower because more consumers are purchasing their product.

We also want donations, don’t get me wrong, but this is a chance for them to purchase the product. The retailer is also getting the purchase and obviously when the consumers come in, they’re not just going to buy that fresh produce. So, it’s good for the retailer, it’s good for the grower, and it’s great for our families.

Q: Maybe this will incentivize families to pick up even more produce beyond the amount of the voucher, or other ingredients for recipes you’ve shared with them...

A: We sure hope so. We all know today when people are going to the store now, they’re buying for extended periods of time. We’re concerned produce may not be on their shopping list as much as it should. We know processed snack products have increased because they’re pantry items. Our program is injecting healthy food into their diet, which is more important than ever now. If they didn’t have this voucher, they probably wouldn’t be doing that, so it’s critical and makes sense.

Parents leaving a Brighter Bites produce distribution in Immokalee, FL, on March 18, where more than 500 families received 12 different produce items donated by Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida, Inc., Southern Specialties / Southern Selects, Freedom Fresh, and B&W Quality Growers.

Q: It also will be interesting to see what produce they purchase, because the items may be different during this crisis than what they might have chosen otherwise...

A: I agree with you.

Q: Is the voucher just for use in the fresh produce department? Will there be any confusion at checkout on what is included?

A: I’ll have to wait to answer that question! We’ve been clear in our communication and the store has been clear with the messaging on the voucher. It’s almost like a prescription for produce.

Q: That’s a lovely way to describe the program!

A: As long as we have enough money for it, we will continue the program every other week. Initially, we have enough funding I would say for two to three distributions, and we’re in a campaign right now to get more funds. We’ll continue as long as we have the money for it.

Q: Could you provide more information about the total costs involved? What will it take to extend the program, the outlets you’re using to get funding, and how retailers and produce industry executives can help?

A: If we were to go as far to get vouchers for all our families in all the cities, and doing that bi-weekly five times as we talked about over a 10- to 12-week time period, the cost is nearly $2 million. Brighter Bites was positioned to put in one million dollars upfront with what we had in our budget. We’re campaigning all we can for the rest and looking for donations through our normal channels.

If you go to brighterbites.org, the first thing that comes up is a popup for donations to serve our families during this pandemic. We’d be happy to take whatever individuals can give, from $25 to $1,000, and we’re obviously looking for the industry to support this as well.

Then we have fun projects going on (you don’t hear the word fun very often these days).

I enjoy good wine, and many of my friends do as well, so I reached out to 30 of my dear friends, names you’d recognize, to look in their own private wine sellers to donate their own wine for a silent auction to raise funds for this program. People started writing back, and in two weeks, we already had 80 lots of wine, in excess of $60,000 in retail value, and we still have donations coming in.

We’re going to have this silent auction, Wine for a Cause, this Memorial Day weekend, along with registration links if you’d like to be a part of it. And we’re still open to anyone who reads this to donate wine for the auction. If you’re interested, please reach out to me. [rich.dachman@brighterbites.org].

PMA has really stepped up to help promote this through their various communication abilities and they are a great supporter of Brighter Bites.

Q: Have you received interest from more retailers to support your voucher program?

A: We are talking to multiple other retailers. We’ve taken care of Austin, Houston and Southwest Florida, but we need retail participation in Dallas, New York and Washington D.C. areas. We have variations of Brighter Bites programs in each of the cities to solve the dilemmas of distribution. If retailers in these areas are interested in supporting us with this voucher program, we could sure use their support.

Q: So, this voucher program is limited to Brighter Bites families. Would there be a way that other families in need could sign up for the program, as a way to increase your Brighter Bites members, or perhaps develop an iteration of the voucher concept to reach more people?

A: It’s a funding question. Our primary goal is to continue to provide for the families we already serve. With expanded funding, we could provide to more people, but we need to make sure that we make our families primary. And yes, we’ve already talked about that, and we have unique stories of families that have needed help. Our team did a COVID-19 survey and found some families in dire need. We had our team go to grocery stores and buy food, diapers, and formula and deliver to these families individually.

When you hear some of these comments, it brings tears to your eyes. Seeing the personal toll of this crisis has choked up all of us.

You ask if this could become a broader part of our program going forward. We’ll always stick to our core strategy of getting produce to people. I do believe this voucher program will have a place going forward. I’m not exactly sure what that is, but I think this allows us to further penetrate families that might not have gotten it before.

I think it’s good for the entire industry because it just promotes produce at the retail level, at the grower level... there’s no downside, as long as we can continue to fund it. I believe a part of that program will always continue to supplement our core distribution.  

Q: This is a good segue to your other distribution strategies...

A: We are organizing large-scale distributions to serve hundreds of families at a time with fresh produce while complying with CDC safety guidelines.

Our schools are closed from use in their traditional fashion. We’re working a lot with YMCA’s, specifically in Houston, churches, schools, etc., to do drive-through distributions, which we’ve been able to do millions of times. In certain cases, we are using outside schools as distribution points. We’re just not doing it at the same time that people are picking up lunches. We can be at one school and serve families from multiple schools.

On March 27, Brighter Bites in Dallas, TX distributed 10,000 pounds of free fresh fruits and vegetables donated by FreshPoint Dallas to 500 families. Instead of going to waste, 10 different varieties went home to the kitchens of each family, including baby carrots, English cucumbers, Asian pears, red and green bell peppers, tomatoes, limes, red grapes, and honeydew. Distributions are continuing weekly at various locations. 

When we do distributions at alternative locations, the whole community is invited. We send special text messages to our families, but the locations may send out information as well, so 50 percent of the people who come might be Brighter Bites families.

We continue to search for opportunities to reach our families. The retail produce voucher is one way.

Q: On the logistics side, are there different distribution challenges and coronavirus-related issues based on the city and location, etc.? You mention connecting with the YMCA, for instance. How do these partnerships work? Are you extending your collaborations with foodservice distributors?

A: In Houston, we have nine YMCA sites, distributing two times each week, 1200 families per site, and 40,000 pounds per site.

In Dallas, we are collaborating with FreshPoint and Hardies for distributions with Dallas ISD Schools, Casa Del Lago, and previously YMCA. In Austin, we’re serving 1,250 Brighter Bites families per week (and all Austin Brighter Bites schools every other week).

In D.C., food distribution in Prince George’s County, MD, is an effort with a local council woman in partnership with Coastal.

And in Southwest Florida, we’re partnering with the Boys and Girls Clubs, and Harry Chapin Food Bank.

In markets where we don’t have a retail partner, such as New York, Brighter Bites is working with an organization called Queens Together in conjunction with The Connected Chef, re-employing restaurant workers to help package and deliver bags of fresh produce directly to the doors of 1,300 Brighter Bites families in Queens and 700 other food insecure families in Queens.

Q: You’re getting some nice local coverage [here and here].

A: We’re doing some unique programs, and a great example is in New York, where our director there connected with out-of-work foodservice employees through Queens Together, which is serving meals through a commissary to thousands of healthcare workers in Queens. Brighter Bites asked, would you be willing to prepare our produce bags, and they said yes.

The produce is coming from City Harvest, a tremendous partner. City Harvest is picking up its produce from the Port of Philadelphia and offered to provide an extra 40,000 pounds of produce a week to Brighter Bites. But in New York, our families didn’t want to come out, which is very understandable with what’s going on out there. So, we found a ton of ways, including employing foodservice workers to deliver produce to 2,000 families in New York.

Q: It’s great the way you’re partnering and innovating...

A: You have to be innovative. Everybody must pivot and find new ways to do things. It’s a new world. This is not temporary, by the way. This is going to be around for a long time.

Q: What are your expectations, when you say this is not temporary?

A: We’re not sure… we can’t be sure of what’s going to happen. But we’re confident there will continue to be social distancing through the summer. And we’re going to have to continue to find ways, and we all know in the summer it has always been more difficult than ever for families to get food with schools out. We’re going to be as aggressive as we possibly can to continue to live under the parameters that are set to keep our communities and families safe.

I see the social distancing piece continuing and people continuing to be out of work, to a great degree. And the need is going to be great. There is no guarantee schools will start in the fall. I don’t know. We have to be prepared to continue to provide these services to these families in need. We should assume things aren’t going to change, and if they do then we’ll adjust, but we have to be ready to provide produce under the most extreme circumstances.

USDA’S FARMERS-TO-FAMILIES FOOD BOX PROGRAM

Q: Are you involved in USDA’s Farmers-To-Families Food Box Program? It’s something you’ve been specializing in for quite some time...

A: Brand new to our world is the USDA’s new Farmers to Families Food Box program, and we’re almost overwhelmed because we have so many people coming to us. The program is about packing a variety of products in a box and partnering with non-profits to work with distributors to get produce to families in need, which is what we’ve been doing for years. We want to be a part of this. We want to be the non-profit that distributors use, not just in cities that we’re in, but in other cities.

We can help because we have a lot of expertise. We are reaching out to our foodservice partners in multiple cities to assist them in this program, to get the produce from the USDA grower to the foodservice distributor to distributions in areas of need. We want to be a part of it, we are a part of it, and we think we can provide some great subject matter and best practices.

For example, we dictate how many items go in the box, what types of varieties, types for nutrition balance, how to pack heavier items on the bottom, what types of products to use without refrigeration, to stay away from fresh-cut fruit, which, of course, is not a good item to keep outside of refrigeration, etc.

Now in our new world of COVID-19, we have to look carefully at best practices and making sure you have social distancing at places of distribution and the masks, gloves and all the proper equipment to stay safe. How to pack a good box for the families, but how do you execute distribution at a YMCA or a school or a parking lot? This is all new to others, but we’ve been doing this for a while so we’re good at it.

We’re recommending the Farmers to Families food boxes include our nutrition education, how to store the items, how to prepare them. We believe that’s critical. Right now, it’s not included. We’re hoping to include recipes, and then how to prepare certain produce, what to stock in the pantry, tips on how to eat healthy on a budget, which is crucial now. We’re hoping that will happen.

Q: You have good evidence to support the extra funding for that...

A: It’s just come up now because this is so new. If we’re chosen as a non-profit partner, we would be recommending to the food distributor to include that cost. We actually did a cost analysis, and it’s only going to be about 10 cents to add this nutrition education material. We believe it’s very critical.

Our job is to change behavior. It just happens we use produce to do this with education and a positive experience for our families; that is our existence to change the way people eat and in turn change their health. It doesn’t just have to be a feeding program. And we track what we do to prove what we do makes a difference.

Q: That’s what makes your program unique.

A: This is how we’re going to get people to consume more produce. I spoke with Jim (Prevor) and he asked, what can we do to help Brighter Bites. We’re so appreciative of your coverage. I really liked Tim York’s interview. It was enlightening. I’ve been reading all your Q&A’s, and you’ve done a great job in providing important insights and capturing how the produce industry is reinventing itself...

This is a chance for the produce industry to step up and be the hero during this crisis. We can look at this as a tough time, but this is a time people need food and to maintain their health. This is an opportunity for us to step up in a crisis and help people at risk from diet-related diseases and be a part of the solution.

******

Though the produce industry has its problems – notably the reverberations of the closing of most restaurants and the impact this has had on the suppliers to foodservice – we have seen sales rise through the retail channel.

It is fair enough that the industry turned to government to try and get some help — and the government has responded both with general programs available to most businesses, such as the Payroll Protection Program and with specialized programs, such as the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

Right now, the entire country is focused on finding a way out of the coronavirus problem but, one day, and soon, many important constituencies — people, politicians, academics, etc. — will be looking across the country and asking which industries, which companies, which people were the heroes of the moment and which were simply trying to get all they could.

It would be very good if the conclusion was that the produce industry was a good guy, on the side of the people. Brighter Bites gives the industry a path. All who can... should walk that path.

Many thanks to Rich Dachman and the Brighter Bites team for helping so many in need and for giving the produce industry such a special opportunity.

 

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