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Oregon, Washington state potato commissions tackle hunger

This year’s rivalry between Oregon State University and Washington State University will extend beyond the football field with the real winner being the local food banks. The Oregon Potato Commission and the Washington State Potato Commission are teaming up to tackle hunger via a friendly wager on the outcome of the Nov. 8 matchup in Corvallis, OR, between the Beavers and Cougars.sieoj

“We have been proud sponsors of OSU football for the past few seasons and each year we have one game where we set up a potato bar outside of the stadium and serve potatoes while collecting donations for Northwest Farmers Fighting Hunger,” Bill Brewer, executive director for the OPC, said in a press release. “This year we wanted to see if we could do a little more for our local food banks and so we extended the invite to Washington’s potato growers to see if they were up to the challenge and to test their confidence in their team’s abilities.”

In addition to once again having a potato bar and collecting donations for Farmers Fighting Hunger before the game, this year the action on the field will also determine whether a food bank in Washington or Oregon is also victorious. For every point scored in Saturday’s matchup, 500 pounds of potatoes will be donated to a food bank in the winning team’s state. The donation will be made by the commission and growers whose team ended up on the losing end.

“That could be a lot of potatoes going to food banks," Chris Voigt, executive director for the WSPC, said in the release. "The last three seasons when OSU and WSU have played the teams have combined to score an average of 55 points per game. So if that trend holds true then you would be looking at 27,500 pounds of potatoes heading to one of the states."

The organization from the winning state will select the food bank to send the potatoes to. The delivery will be made in the upcoming weeks just in time for the holiday season, one of the busiest times for food banks in the region.

“The need for food assistance in Washington and Oregon and beyond is real and even though this is a fun way to raise awareness, the opportunity to do our part and help with the demand food banks face this time of year is why we are most interested in having the wager,” said Brewer.

“Whether you are a fan of the Beavers, Cougars or any other team, everyone has the opportunity to root for food banks this weekend and hoping it is a high scoring game,” added Voigt. “And with potatoes being one of the best whole food sources of nutrition available that is a win-win for all.”

Fans who will be attending the game have the opportunity to stop by the potato bar served by local growers, make a donation and enjoy a great-tasting meal before kickoff. For those who are unable to make it to Corvallis but would still like to help, they can visit farmersendinghunger.com/ways-to-help/ or nwfarmersfightinghunger.com to make a donation.

On heels of AWI purchase, C&S acquires Grocers Supply

C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc. has agreed to acquire the wholesale distribution and supply business of the Grocers Supply Co. Inc. This news comes less than a week after its bid to purchase Associated Wholesalers Inc. was approved.

The new acquisition will include Grocers Supply’s warehouse and distribution operations in the Houston, Dallas and Rio Grande Valley areas along with its approximately 1,800 employees, but will not include any of Grocers Supply’s retail operations. The transaction is expected to close before the end of the year.

“The Grocers Supply Company has a century-long legacy of providing the highest level of service to its valued customers, which are primarily independent retailers and regional chains,” Rick Cohen, C&S Chairman and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “We very much look forward to partnering with the Grocers Supply team to continue this tradition and to expand the services and offerings available to its customers through the strength and scale of C&S. C&S is excited to enter the Southwestern United States market and to have the opportunity to service this growing and vital region.”

Grocers Supply distributes all major product lines, including produce, and is also known as one of the leading distributors of Hispanic grocery products in the country, focusing on Texas-made and Texas-grown products.

Grocers Supply’s largest customer is the Fiesta Mart chain of stores, which includes 60 retail locations and is one of the larger grocers in the country serving the Hispanic market.

“C&S is strongly committed to maintaining the service and product assortment that Grocers Supply’s loyal customers have come to expect,” Cohen said in the release. “This is an exciting opportunity for both companies, as well our customers and employees, as we combine the best aspects of Grocers Supply and C&S to produce a truly differentiated offering to the independent grocer.”

“As the Levit family planned for the next 100 years, with the goal of sustaining the Grocers Supply wholesale business, we determined that selling the wholesale business would be in the best interest of its stakeholders," Max Levit, president of Grocers Supply, said in the release. "We carefully selected C&S Wholesale Grocers as the best choice for our employees and customers because of C&S’s commitment to growth, operational excellence and service to independent grocers. We appreciate our loyal employees’ numerous accomplishments and look forward to seeing their future successes.”

Mushroom Council's Preis promoted to marketing manager

The Mushroom Council has promoted Kathleen Preis to the role of marketing manager. In this new position, she will be taking on additional management responsibilities for key Mushroom Council program areas, while continuing to lead the school meals marketing initiative.

“In her two years with the council, Katie has proven herself as a quick learner, adding tremendous value and a spark of enthusiasm to our mushroom marketing team,” Bart Minor, president and chief executive officer of the Mushroom Council, said in a press release.Preis-KatieKathleen Preis “She has taken our initiative to introduce blended meat and mushroom products into the school lunch program from a simple concept to widespread adoption by school foodservice.”

Preis is a graduate of the department of food marketing in the Haub School of Business at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and she recently completed the PMA Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Program.

“Katie has the ability to juggle many tasks, and we know she will continue to add value to the council’s marketing programs by building demand for fresh mushroom consumption,” Tony D’Amico, Mushroom Council chairman, said in the release.

Mushroom blendability, the culinary technique of blending fresh, chopped mushrooms with ground meat entrees, is now the primary focus of the council’s marketing efforts. Validated by the success in school meals, mushroom blendability opens up an entire new market for the industry by expanding the consumer experience opportunity of fresh mushrooms past the fresh produce section and into the deli, meat case and more.

NEPC 2015 expo set for Cape Cod

The New England Produce Council will hold its annual expo in 2015 at a brand new location: the picturesque Chatham Bars Inn in Chatham, MA, a beachfront resort on the "elbow" of beautiful Cape Cod.nepc

"It's a spectacular location, right on the water," NEPC President Bob McGowan told The Produce News at the end of October. "It really is one of the nicest places on Cape Cod. And we're going to take over the entire resort."

The council for many years had held its annual expo in the spring, but in 2014 it made the decision to move the event to September, to better highlight New England during that picturesque time of the year just before the onset of fall. The council is continuing that time frame, with the event on Cape Cod scheduled to take place Wednesday, Sept. 16, and Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015.

Exhibitors will have Wednesday to set up their booths. Two industry panels, whose topics and speakers are still to be determined, will also take place Wednesday afternoon, said McGowan, who is with Northeast Produce Sales. A traditional clambake under the stars — one of the highlights at the 2014 event — is set for that evening.

The trade show will take place Thursday. Additional events, such as a golf tournament, shopping tours and a boat ride to nearby Nantucket, are still being finalized, said McGowan, who added that having next year's expo take place on Wednesday and Thursday may give attendees, and their families, the opportunity to extend their stay until the weekend to enjoy the truly scenic and historic area of Cape Cod.

Taylor Farms wins food-safety award

Taylor Farms has once again been recognized for its commitment to the highest levels of food safety. At the Safe Quality Food International Conference in Orlando, FL, Taylor Farms was honored as the SQFI Primary Producer of the Year.

The SQF Quality Achievement Awards Program pays tribute to the outstanding commitment, support and performance of individuals and organizations who contribute to endorsing and improving the SQFI and its rigorous certification process. The Safe Quality Food Institute is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative and is designed to reassure consumers that stringent food-safety practices are integrated into every step of the food processing chain.

In addition to Taylor Farms adhering to the strict protocols outlined by SQFI certification it also implements the revolutionary SmartWash Solutions food safety and process control system in all Taylor Farms facilities. All products are subject to a multi-stage wash featuring SmartWash, which eliminates bacterial cross contamination.

“There is no higher priority for Taylor farms than food safety,” Jason Kawata, director of quality assurance for Taylor Farms, said in a press release. “We are committed to the highest levels of food safety day in and day out, and it’s an honor to be recognized for those efforts. We want all of our customers to know there is no compromising when it comes to food safety.”