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Giant/Martin's takes action against hunger this September

In recognition of Hunger Action Month this September, Giant Food Stores and Martin's Food Markets are asking customers to join them in the fight against hunger in the local communities the grocers serve. Throughout the month, Giant/Martin's-sponsored food drives and hunger-awareness initiatives will support regional Feeding America food banks, including the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, Philabundance, Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley, FeedMore-Central Virginia Food Bank, Food Bank of Western Maryland, Greater Berks County Food Bank, Water Street Rescue Mission in Lancaster, Food Resources of Washington County, Maryland and the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank in Virginia.

“While Hunger Action Month is a time to raise both funds and awareness for local food banks, it’s important to remember that there is a need every month of the year,” John MacDonald, director of marketing and external communications, said in a press release. “Too many in our local communities go hungry, which is why as part of our ongoing better neighbor efforts, Giant/Martin's remains committed to the fight against hunger through the donation of food, funds and volunteer time.”

Running Aug. 31-Sept. 13 is Giant/Martin's annual Bag Hunger in-store campaign, where customers have an opportunity to donate $1 at the checkout to benefit their local food bank. Those who donate will receive a free Unilever product coupon book. A similar campaign held earlier this year raised a record-breaking $607,035 in support of local hunger relief efforts.

Also in partnership with Unilever, Giant/Martin's is hosting a Stuff-A-Truck event at its Havertown, PA, store Sept. 6.

In addition, for each flu shot Giant/Martin's pharmacies administer this year, Unilever will donate three meals to Feeding America, one of the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief charities.

Recognizing that high-quality protein is most in need by hungry families, Giant/Martin's innovative “Meat the Needs” frozen meat donation program has donated more than three million pounds of meat that would otherwise go unsold to its regional food bank partners since 2010.

In 2013, hunger relief efforts and donations to regional food banks accounted for approximately 40 percent of Giant/Martin's community giving with over 100 regional food banks and local pantries receiving $10 million in product, customer, vendor and corporate donations.

To learn more about the partnership between Giant/Martin's and Unilever to combat hunger, visit

GROW Month, hosted by Organics Unlimited, begins Sept. 1

Starting Sept. 1, Organics Unlimited will host its ninth annual GROW Month, a celebration of its non-profit program GROW (Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers). In an effort to raise consumer awareness, Organics Unlimited encourages all retailers who carry the "GROW" label organic bananas to share the positive work stories they have helped make possible.

Since 2005, GROW has raised more than $1 million in support from those who have chosen to sell GROW bananas in their stores. This year alone, Organics Unlimited has raised almost $250,000 for the GROW Fund, which contributes to scholarships, educational programs, health clinics and safe water projects for workers and families in Mexico and Ecuador.

“This is a very exciting time of the year for everyone at Organics Unlimited,” Mayra Velazquez de Leon, Organics Unlimited president and GROW founder, said in a press release. “Each year our customers asking for the 'GROW' label exceed our expectations. They are benefitting from the program as much as the people they are helping in Mexico and Ecuador. They are changing lives.”

With each box of GROW bananas sold, a portion of the proceeds go into the GROW Fund. These donations are managed and distributed by the International Community Foundation. Project Amigo in Mexico and Children International in Ecuador are two places where GROW has helped build better communities.

Organics Unlimited continues to offer point-of-purchase materials to its customers. Complete with posters, header cards and recipe card, most items in the Organics Unlimited online store are available to download for self-printing. Banana bags are also available in the online store for free during GROW Month.

Simonian Fruit Co.’s pomegranates begin shipping Sept. 1

With fresh pomegranates expected to harvest about seven to 10 days earlier than normal this year, Simonian Fruit Co. plans to ship early-season varieties starting Sept. 1. Shipping under the "SIMCO" brand, Simonian is one of the more experienced pomegranate grower-shippers in the industry, with more than 35 years of handling the autumn fruit.

The first variety to ship will be the Urbanekgranate, a proprietary variety to Simonian. Other early season varieties include Smith and Early Wonderful. These will be followed by the most popular variety, Wonderfuls, later in the season.

“Overall, the quality looks to be good this season,” Jeff Simonian, vice president of sales, said in a press release. “The size of this year's crop is expected to be normal to slightly smaller than last season. We are expecting another season of good color and flavor as well.”

Simonian added that the company usually ships at least through the first of January, and during some years even into February or March. "We are one of the few shippers that offers a five-month California pomegranate season," he said

Worldwide export is a major part of the company's pomegranate business, with about 40 percent of its total harvest in any given year going overseas. Simonian’s top international markets for pomegranates include Korea, Australia, Taiwan, Japan and Brazil.

QPMA convention ushers in positive change

The Quebec Produce Marketing Association held its 67th annual convention in scenic Charlevoix, Québec, at the Fairmont Manoir Richelieu Aug. 21-24. Under the umbrella theme “People at the Heart of the Industry,” over 500 guests attended the banquet and attendees enjoyed networking events, business sessions, meetings and motivational speeches.

Celebrating women in leadership roles was a big part of the event with 2013-14 QPMA President Marie Gosselin of of Les Serres du St-Laurent (Savoura) presiding over events. During the annual general meeting, Judith Basque of Loblaw/Provigo joined the executive, marking the first time the association’s five-member executive committee included three women.Basque-Perreault-Gosselin-QJudith Basque of Loblaw/Provigo, Sophie Perreault QPMA President/Director General and outgoing QPMA 2013-2014 President Marie Gosselin of Les Serres du St-Laurent (Savoura).

With overwhelming support from the membership, a key change was made to the leadership of the association with Sophie Perreault being named president and director general. The key change to the role will help provide more stability for the volunteer executive committee and provide a little more heft to the role when dealing with government. The change was voted upon unanimously by the membership at the AGM.

“Our association is moving ahead as never before, and I’m glad that I’ve been able to contribute. I certainly plan to stay on the scene and keep actively involved in the QPMA,” stated outgoing president Gosselin. Gosselin’s presidency was a busy one with strategic planning and revisions to the organisational structure. Key work on government relations and issues management were a big focus in the past year as well.

“It’s a great pleasure to see Sammy become my successor. He’s a hard worker, he’s a straight talker, a committed guy,” said Gosselin by way of introduction of the 2014-15 QPMA President Sammy Cacciatore of Sun Grape Marketing.

“I’m deeply convinced of the need for the QPMA. There’s simply no other place like ours where all the stakeholders in the Quebec produce industry can get together,” said Cacciatore in his introductory speech as new QPMA president. He thanked and commended Gosselin on the hard work during her tenure and terrific strides over the past year, particularly in the strategic planning, association governance and modernisation of the mission and structure of the association.

The Pillar of the Industry for 2014, Bernadette Hamel, was welcomed onstage during the closing banquet with a thundering standing ovation. She made her mark at QPMA by being elected its first female president in 2007-08. “Her contribution to the industry and her career path make her an example and a source of inspiration for everyone in the business, as well as a Pillar of choice. For all these reasons and more, she most definitely deserves the recognition we are giving her tonight,” said Gosselin.

“Over the years, I’ve had the great privilege to work for people who have helped me grow in this industry by giving me the chance to meet its many challenges head on,” said Hamel.

“You all know that having a successful career doesn’t happen without the support of a strong team, and I’m happy to say I’ve had the good fortune to manage some of the hardest-working, most-dedicated and passionate employees in the business,” continued Hamel. When asked what was next after reaching all these milestones and accolades, Hamel replied, “Retirement!” with a good chuckle — but not any time too soon she was quick to note.

The 2015 QPMA Convention will be held Aug. 20-22 at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec under the theme, “A Healthy Industry, A Shared Responsibility.”

Potato Commission extends Big Idaho Potato Truck tour two more years

The Idaho Potato Commission’s Big Idaho Potato Truck Tour has been so successful in generating favorable publicity for Idaho potatoes across the country during its first three years that the commission has decided to extend the campaign for another two years.

That announcement was made by Commission President Frank Muir in a presentation at a breakfast meeting Thursday, Aug. 28, during the 86th annual convention of the Idaho Grower Shippers Association in Sun Valley, ID.

Frank-Muir-Mark-CoombsFrank Muir with Idaho Potato Grower Mark Coombs, who is featured in the Idaho Potato Commission's TV ads.The commission has also, once again, created a new television ad inspired by the tour and by the success of previous similarly themed ads, Muir said.

The truck, a flatbed big-rig on which is mounted a massive replica of an Idaho potato, has drawn crowds and media attention wherever it has gone, covering nearly every state in the union, most of them multiple times and visiting what Muir referred to as some very iconic places. Everywhere the truck is seen, onlookers take photos and make posts on social media about having seen it.

The Big Idaho Potato Truck’s first national tour served as inspiration for the commission’s 2012-13 national television consumer advertising campaign, featuring Idaho Potato Farmer Mark Coombs in a potato field, lamenting that the truck and crew left home months ago and have not yet returned. In the ad, he holds a poster of the “missing” truck and crew, and asks viewers, “If you see them, please tell them to come home,” as fast cuts show the truck at recognizable landmarks around the country and the crew having a grand time.

The ad was so well received that the theme was repeated in the commission’s 2013-14 campaign. In that ad, Coombs sets off across the country in his pickup truck, with his dog, in search of the still-missing potato truck and crew.

For the 2014-15 television campaign, Coombs and another Idaho potato grower set off in a vintage red-and-white bi-wing airplane in search of the “still-missing” truck. Attendees at the IGSA convention saw a preview of the ad during the breakfast meeting. It was scheduled to debut on television that evening.

Yet another of the commission’s highly successful programs has been extended, Muir said. The Potato Lovers' Month display contest has been growing dramatically, with more stores participating every year. Last year, demand for Idaho potatoes during the February promotion was so great it essentially reached the limit of the capacity of Idaho potato packing facilities to meet the demand. Therefore, for the 2015 Potato Lovers Month, the contest period, which has previously been four weeks in February, will be extended to eight weeks. It will start mid-January and continue into mid-March.

Also for the 2014-15 marketing season, the commission is overhauling its website, Muir said. He also talked about the extensive work the commission is doing with bloggers and in social media.

Muir also previewed the commission’s programs for the coming marketing season in the foodservice sector and in international markets.

The previous day of the convention consisted largely of seminars on a variety of topics ranging from “changing the GMO Conversation” to a discussion of potato consumption trends.

Scheduled for Friday morning included the annual lGSA breakfast meeting, which would include presentations by representatives of the National Potato Council, the U.S. Potato Board and the United Fresh Produce Association, to be followed by the annual golf tournament.