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Hillary kicks off United Fresh convention with ‘Hard Choices’ promo

Potential presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton kicked off the United Fresh Produce Association convention in Chicago, Tuesday afternoon, June 10, with a discussion of hard choices that she faced as secretary of state and the country faces in the future.

Not coincidentally, Hard Choices is the title of her latest book, which was released earlier in the day. Secretary Clinton was introduced at the joint UFPA/Food Marketing Institute opening general session as one of the few people in the United States who is recognizable by just her first name, and the standing-room-only crowd was a tribute to her star power.

Clinton discussed many topics during both her presentation and Q&A with Wonderful Brands Chief Executive Officer Stewart Resnick, including efforts to curb childhood obesity and encourage healthy eating choices. She applauded United Fresh’s salad bar effort and said she was opposed to the efforts in Congress to roll back the expanded fruit and vegetable standards that are part of the nation’s school lunch and breakfast programs. She said that as first lady in the 1990s and today with the Clinton Foundation, fighting childhood obesity has been a cause that she believes and devotes effort to.

During the Q&A portion of the program, she declined to announce her intentions with regard to the 2016 presidential race and said she was still considering the concept. She opined that anyone running for president of the United States should be able to articulate their vision for the country and how they propose to get their ideas accomplished.

She reviewed some of her most difficult moments as secretary of state, including the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. She called the incident the situation that she regretted most during her tenure. However, she defended the stationing of civilians in difficult situations, stating that “we live in a dangerous world” and the United States can’t withdraw from that world.

Looking forward, she expressed support for immigration reform and specifically the passage by the House of Representatives of the bill passed by the Senate last year. She said that was the best chance to achieve reform this year. Clinton said she was “bewildered by the debate” as she stated that the political leaders in both the House and the Senate and from both parties support comprehensive immigration reform. Clinton said it is a small minority of people in elective offices as well as in the general public who are against reform and are holding up the process.

Clinton said these people forget that the United States is a nation of immigrants and is better because of it. As a nation, she said, “we are stronger if we move toward immigration reform.”

The joint opening session was followed by an opening reception that survived a typical Midwest downpour to kick off the co-location of the UFPA and FMI conventions. The two organizations first formed a convention location partnership a decade ago and have held their meetings at the same location several times since then. This year marks the first year in a three-year commitment to co-locate in Chicago.

John Toner, United vice president of convention and industry relations, told The Produce News at the opening reception that the early numbers show it is going to be a successful event. He said booth sales were up 25 percent this year over last year’s show in San Diego, and registrations were sure to top last year’s show when all is said and done. “If you can exceed California numbers in the Midwest, you’ve had a successful show,” he said.

On Wednesday, June 11, Publix Supermarkets CEO Ed Crenshaw gave the keynote address, stressing just how important employees are to the success of any company. He relayed that for years Publix has been on the list of top companies to work for, and he said that is no accident. In fact, he called treating employees with dignity and respect one of the main keys to success for Publix. Quoting the company’s founder, he said it has always been a core philosophy of the firm: “If you treat your associates right, they will treat the customers right and that will increase sales and profits.”

At that same opening breakfast, United CEO Tom Stenzel vowed to fight the aforementioned effort in Congress to roll back fruit and vegetable standards in school feeding programs. He promised that “we will never go back” to previous standards.