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Organics Unlimited teaming with Four Seasons on East Coast distribution of GROW bananas

Organics Unlimited, a San Diego-based distributor of organic tropical fruit from Mexico and South America, is teaming with Four Seasons Produce to distribute its GROW organic bananas on the East Coast.

Four Seasons Produce, a full-service produce wholesaler based in Ephrata, PA, will receive and ripen the bananas and distribute to markets in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

"We want to be involved in supporting the communities in our banana-growing regions," Four Seasons General Manager Jason Hollinger said in a press release. "Our company is a major supporter of Fair Trade, but we realize that there are different ways to support the workers and their families. We've added GROW to give our customers another option for buying good, quality organic bananas that also have a way to give back to others."

Started in 2005, the GROW program has now provided over $1 million of support for programs in Mexico and Ecuador that promote education, dental, vision care and safe water.

"We're excited with the growth we've seen in the program and to have the GROW organic bananas available in the East," Mayra Velazquez de Leon, president of Organics Unlimited, said in the press release. "In the past few years, we've seen a major increase in interest from our customers, which has allowed us to expand funding to additional programs and promising young people."

From 2012 to 2013, GROW support increased by almost 150 percent. This year, GROW has raised over $200,000 in funds to help continue efforts in social responsibility. All funds come from the purchase of GROW bananas in the United States. Each box of fruit has a surcharge of 60 cents that goes directly to the fund. Proceeds from the funds go to Children International in Ecuador and Project Amigo in Mexico to help build opportunities for workers, their families and communities.

GROW retailers also benefit from the merchandising support available through the Organics Unlimited website. While materials are available year round, the celebration of GROW Month in September provides a special consumer focus that expands shoppers awareness of the added benefits of buying the GROW label. Of interest to consumers this year will be an increased selection of personalized stories about the impact that GROW has made on their lives.

C&S looking to acquire Associated Wholesalers, White Rose

C&S Wholesale Grocers has entered into an agreement in which it will acquire substantially all of Associated Wholesalers Inc.'s assets, including its White Rose distribution business. Under terms of the agreement, C&S will serve as the "stalking horse bidder" in a court-supervised auction process. Accordingly, the agreement is subject to higher and otherwise better offers, among other conditions.

To facilitate the transaction process and provide for an orderly sale, AWI and its subsidiaries, including White Rose, filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

AWI and White Rose are expected to continue operating in the normal course during the sale process.

"We believe that the asset purchase agreement with C&S is in the best interest of AWI and its stakeholders," Joyce Fasula and Mike Rothwell, chairman and vice-chairman of the AWI board of directors, respectively, said in a press release. "After conducting a thorough process, which included the exploration of a range of alternatives and reaching out to multiple interested parties, we determined the best course of action for AWI was to enter this agreement with C&S and to undertake the court-supervised sale process."

"As we move through this transaction process, we will continue to focus on serving our customers," Matt Saunders, president and chief executive officer of AWI, said in the release. "We also intend to work closely with our suppliers and the winning bidder to help ensure that our customers continue to receive the level of service they expect."

"The addition of AWI and White Rose would expand C&S's footprint and enhance our significant capabilities in servicing independent grocers," Rick Cohen, chairman and CEO of C&S, said in the release. "AWI and White Rose have a terrific customer base, and their distribution capabilities are a natural complement to our existing portfolio. We believe we are strongly positioned to provide all of their customers with the goods and services they need to successfully run and even grow their businesses."

In conjunction with the proposed transaction, AWI has received a commitment for "debtor in possession" financing to support its continued operations during the pendency of the sale process. C&S has also made a commitment to participate in the "debtor in possession" financing package. AWI has filed a number of customary motions seeking court authorization to continue to support its business operations during the transaction process, including the continued payment of employee wages, salaries and health benefits without interruption. AWI has also asked for authority to continue existing customer programs and intends to pay suppliers in full under normal terms for goods and services provided after the filing date of Sept. 9.

The proposed transaction is subject to, among other things, higher and otherwise better offers to purchase any or substantially all of AWI's assets, court approval, antitrust approval, any other such approvals as may be required by law, and other customary conditions. Given these conditions, there can be no assurance that the proposed transaction will be consummated.

Stenzel says new poll shows it's not time to roll back school nutrition standards

WASHINGTON — United Fresh Produce Association Chief Executive Tom Stenzel said a new poll that shows parents overwhelmingly support new school meal standards that require more fruits and vegetables shows it's not time to roll back the standards in the nation's schools.

Some 500 produce representatives are in Washington, DC, this week for the group's annual Washington Conference, and school nutrition standards are on the agenda during a session, "Why fighting for Healthier School Meals is So Important."

The new poll, released Sept. 8 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association found 91 percent of parents support requiring schools to include a serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal.

The findings come as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Smart Snacks" standards, which took effect July 1, represent the first major update to national guidelines for school snack foods and beverages in more than 30 years. To meet the standards, a snack food must be a fruit, a vegetable, protein, dairy or whole grain; it must have fewer than 200 calories; and it must be low in fat, sodium and sugar.

Similar nutrition standards for school breakfasts and lunches already are in effect, and the USDA said they're being met by some 90 percent of school districts.

Congressional Republicans, however, have attacked the new standards and are advocating for school districts to opt out of the nutrition overhaul, at least temporarily.

"The new national poll underscores the strong support by parents for the new healthier school meal standards that require more fresh fruits and vegetables," Stenzel said. "We put our kids' health first and Congress must continue to do the same. There can be no going back to water down the modest requirement that children take at least one-half cup of fruit or vegetable at breakfast and lunch."

Stenzel added, "Instead, we should be looking for ways to reach our public health goal of half the plate being fruits and vegetables, not just half a cup."

Chiquita to reconsider previously rejected Brazilian buyout

The merger agreement Chiquita Brands International Inc. had announced with Dublin, Ireland-based Fyffes plc is once again at risk. Fyffes has granted Chiquita a waiver permitting it to engage in discussions with the Cutrale Group and the Safra Group, a pair of Brazilian companies that submitted an Aug. 11 buyout proposal.  

At the time, Chiquita said the offer was not in the best interest of its shareholders and reaffirmed its recommendation that they vote to approve the Chiquita-Fyffes merger; however, Chiquita has now sent a letter to Cutrale and Safra indicating its willingness to offer to the pair of companies the opportunity to present its final and best offer.

Chiquita also announced that the special meeting of shareholders to vote on the proposed merger with Fyffes has been postponed to Oct. 3. The meeting had been scheduled for Sept. 17.

"Chiquita does not expect to update the market with any further information unless and until the board has reached a decision on a definitive course of action," the company said in a press release.

In the interim, Chiquita continues to recommend that its shareholders vote for the Fyffes transaction.

Driscoll’s grant to benefit student nutrition choices

Driscoll’s, a leader in fresh berries, has awarded a $10,000 grant to Whole Kids Foundation as part of its school garden grant program. This grant will support five new edible school gardens, which help foster healthy relationships between students and their food. Driscolls-logo

Whole Kids Foundation was founded by Whole Foods Market in 2011 with the mission of improving children’s nutrition by supporting schools and inspiring families.

The decision to work with Whole Foods Market and its foundation was natural given the core values shared by both companies according to Maria T. Cadenas, community involvement manager at Driscoll’s.

“We are excited about our school garden partnership as it will foster the knowledge of where our food comes and the people that make it possible — from the farmworker to the farmers,” she said in a press release.

The Driscoll’s Philanthropy Program was formally established in 2005 to have a positive influence through Driscoll’s core values: be passionate, show humility and be trustworthy.

“We are pleased to help build a more inclusive, connected and economically vibrant community,” Cadenas said in the release.

Whole Kids Foundation provides resources to schools on ways to work with community partners to build and sustain school gardens for long-term success and has awarded grants to schools that educate children of migrant and farmworker populations. Driscoll’s employees, through a nomination process, will select five grant recipient schools.

Driscoll’s and Whole Foods Market employees will also be encouraged to volunteer to support the gardens after they are announced.

“We are excited to partner with a company like Driscoll’s who has a deep passion for growing nutritious food," Nona Evans, Whole Kids Foundation executive director, said in the release. "Their support of our school garden program will empower thousands of students to develop that same passion and increase their willingness to try and eat fresh fruits and vegetables."