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When the Florida Sweet Corn Exchange learned that the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services approved a request for a grant to support fresh sweet corn promotions this spring, the corn exchange began to reconsider how to spend its regular assessment for marketing activities. That's when exchange President Paul Allen started to think about charities.

"I'm on the board of several non-profits and see first hand the struggles charities go through during difficult economic times," Mr. Allen said in a March 31 press release from Lewis & Neale, which handles public relations for the corn exchange. He proposed to the exchange that the funds typically spent to promote its product at the point of sale be offered in a unique program to retail partners.

All retailers are being offered the opportunity to raise money for the charity of their choice from the Florida Sweet Corn Exchange, an organization of Florida corn growers and shippers. During a two-week period of the chain's choosing, between April 19 and May 16, 5 cents will be donated to charity for each crate purchased from an exchange member. The exchange has set aside $80,000 for donations this spring to be made on behalf of the chains. Any retailer interested in participating should contact the exchange to learn more.

The organization is also offering to retailers, at no cost, employee education tools such as its training video and backroom handling poster as well as its merchandising tip sheet called 5 Fast Ways to Turn Supersweet Corn into Gold. The exchange also offers consumer p-o-s materials including recipe leaflets and tearoff pads with easy ideas for using fresh corn as well as posters, price cards and balloons to help build displays. New price cards featuring Florida corn growers are available that can be customized by chains for use in promoting the charitable fundraising promotion in displays and store ads.

The p-o-s and training materials as well as information on raising money for charities may be requested by contacting Lewis & Neale's Jason Stemm by phone at 212/420-8808 or by e-mail at supersweetcorn@lewis-neale.com.

After a difficult winter with multiple freezes, the Belle Glade region expects volume to be delayed from last year but pick up quickly in the second half of April and remain strong through Memorial Day, according to the press release. Volume will be at normal levels in time for the Sweet Corn Fiesta, an annual celebration at the Palm Beach County Fairgrounds, which will once again host the annual National Sweet Corn Eating Championship, sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eating.

The exchange will continue to fund a strong public relations component, managed by Lewis & Neale, including releases to print and on-line media, local television appearances by chefs, a national TV segment with Mr. Food that will air May 6, and radio ads in key markets.

"We are looking to coordinate our activities to give us maximum support from late April through mid-May," Mr. Allen said in the release. "We'll have print, radio and television all running heavy during these weeks. Our long-term investment has helped to build the market for spring corn, and both consumers and retailers have been receptive to our messages."