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ANAHEIM, CA -- The Canadian Produce Marketing Association's overhaul of its 5 to 10 a Day program and its new Passion for Produce mentoring program are among the new initiatives on which the association is working to benefit the produce industry.

The new initiatives were detailed to The Produce News at an Oct. 4 meeting, here, during the Produce Marketing Association's Fresh Summit International Convention and Exhibition by CPMA President Dan Dempster, Adrian Abbott, its chairman, and Jane Proctor, its vice president of policy and issue management, as well as during an Oct. 14 interview with Melanie Richer, senior manager of marketing and communications for CPMA.

The CPMA's original 5 to 10 A Day program, which was designed to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables by Canadian consumers to five to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, is over 10 years old and is undergoing its "first major, complete overhaul," Ms. Richer told The Produce News Oct. 14, noting that the association plans to unveil the program, which will have a completely different name, in February, in time for Canada's Nutrition Month in March.

"We've taken a good long look at it, and we came to realize that the 5 to 10 A Day program needed to be taken up a notch," she said. "It's been a fabulous program with good awareness, but we needed to see where we needed to head in the future to start making more of an impact. We really want to get people excited and talking about it again. Childhood obesity rates are going up astronomically, and the health of Canadians is of concern, and we think this is the answer for that. We want more Canadians eating more fruits and veggies for their health benefits."

She said that focus-group testing conducted for the organization has revealed that Canadians know that fruits and vegetables are good for them and that they need to eat more, but they also need "an actionable item" that tells them how to incorporate more produce into their diets.

Ms. Richer said that the association is hoping the revamped program will break through "all that clutter of messages that the consumer is getting" about living a healthy lifestyle. The association will implement a multifaceted approach for six weeks across Canada utilizing television, radio and print media as well as a dedicated web site.

The new program will continue to be a partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society and the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, Ms. Richer said, adding that "the current "5 to 10 A Day program's web site and logo will not leave the marketplace right away. We imagine it is going to take some time for everybody to switch over to the new program. We expect it to be a slow turnover. For people that do have material with the [program], we will keep that web site up for some time and do a slow transition, or we will link it to the new [site]."

Ms. Richer said that the CPMA would be building upon the success of the "Freggie Fridays" program developed by a Emily Goold, a third-grade teacher at The Holy Redeemer Catholic Elementary School in Kanata, ON, which received The Produce News' Fresh Health Award at this year's CPMA convention and trade show in May.

"After receiving The Produce News' Fresh Health Award, [Freggie Fridays] got a lot of momentum and interest, and we are going to take that program and pilot it within the 63 schools in the Ottawa Catholic School Board. Four additional schools joined on immediately," Ms. Richer said, adding that CPMA would be working with the other 58 principals in the district to implement the program.

"We really want to go into the schools to get a more accurate measurement of how the program works and how we need to tweak it so we can revamp it and launch it nationwide," she said.

Mr. Abbott, chairman of CPMA, told The Produce News that the association's education committee had come up with an idea for a mentoring program similar to PMA's Foundation for Industry Talent program during CPMA's semi- annual meeting in September. CPMA has named "Passion for Produce."

"The concept came up at the semi-annual [meeting] and will cover a good cross-section of the up-and-coming stars of the produce industry," he said, noting that the program will differ from FIT because it will "focus on people already in the business who companies think will make produce their careers."

CPMA will assign a mentor to each participant, who will be sponsored by his or her individual firm, at next year's convention in Vancouver, and the program will "incorporate all aspects of the convention," according to Mr. Dempster.

"Companies will get immediate dividends as payback," Mr. Abbott said. Mr. Dempster added, "The bigger the learning experience participants receive, the bigger the return on our investment back to the industry."

Ms. Proctor told The Produce News that the association's Government Issue Management Working Group was providing "a forum for discussions with senior officials in the Canadian government" and was helping to bring the produce industry together on how best to address issues when meeting with government officials.

"We are making strategic use of time when meeting with government bureaucrats," she said, noting that the group decides who is best suited to make presentations based on his or her individual experiences with the issues being discussed to help get those issues moved forward.

"This is what allows industry to do business and trade to take place," Mr. Dempster said. "It is a critical part of what [CPMA does] and is an exciting development."

"It allows dialogue with government and allows us to see things from a government prospective," Mr. Abbott said.

Mr. Dempster added that it "brings accountability to government, too." The association has "re-examined its strategic plans," said Mr. Dempster, and it has also recently given Sally Blackman, its health and nutrition manager, "responsibility for its food-safety file." Bev Appleby, its standardization and government-relations manager, "now has responsibility for our education and leadership files."

CPMA has also partnered with the Western Growers Association and will be holding seminars on doing business in Canada, Mr. Dempster said.

There will be "multiple sessions" in Florida in December, as well as sessions in early 2010 in Texas and the Pacific Northwest, he said, adding that the latter two areas' sessions would be in partnership with the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp. and local produce trade organizations.

The association has also developed an on-line labeling tool that Mr. Dempster said "will save companies a lot of grief and will minimize the chances they will run into problems" with labeling laws that went into effect in Canada.