In 2012, the New England Produce Council proudly announced that it had joined the “Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools” program. The idea for the Council to become involved began when Tom Stenzel, the president and chief executive officer of the United Fresh Produce Association, made his presentation at the Council’s end of calendar year meeting in May 2011.
“He spoke about the salad bars that United Fresh had donated, and it really hit home with our members and the board of directors,” said Bob McGowan, presidentof the New England Produce Council.
Schools must apply for a salad bar under the program, and its budget must be able to support it once it’s installed. Donors can choose from the list of approved applicants. The NEPC board of directors discussed the choice of schools, and decided that it wanted to donate a salad bar to an inner city school in Boston, and chose East Boston High School as our first salad bar beneficiary.
This year will be the second year that the NEPC will donate a salad bar. The 2013 recipient is Berlin High School in Berlin, CT.
Mr. McGowan is currently serving his third term as president of NEPC. He served two consecutive terms several years ago, but prior to his current election, Jack Salamon served as president for one term.
The NEPC is also involved with the Produce Marketing Association’s regional Career Pathways program. Mr. McGowan said the NEPC is happy to work on this outreach program to help introduce young people to the produce industry.
“Along with our sponsor, Coast to Coast Produce, in memory of their founder, Peter Sticco, we partner each year with the PMA to present the Career Pathways program at our expo,” he said. “We have assigned each student with a ‘career ambassador,’ who is essentially a produce professional. We will have a round table discussion with industry experts in an effort to entice young, bright and enthusiastic people to enter the produce industry as a career.”
Mr. McGowan said that when the NEPC started its annual expo 14 years ago, one of its goals was to include educational programs. The NEPC membership and board are in agreement that Career Pathways is a perfect way for it to show its support to the industry.
The council has approximately 400 dues-paying members today. Its mission is to create a vibrant organization that represents all facets of the produce industry that will create value for its members and sponsors by providing a venue for industry education and social interaction with the ultimate goal of enhancing consumption of safe and healthy fruits, vegetables and complimentary products. The outreach extends to stores outside of traditional supermarkets and to other retailers that sell produce.
“Our focus is to always work toward improving the value we offer,” said Mr. McGowan. “The Council likes to bring people together in social settings, but it does so with the ultimate goal of increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables.”
Mr. McGowan explained that last year the NEPC tried a change of venue and held the Produce and Floral Expo at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA.
“In some ways it was great, and in other ways not so great,” he said. “This year the Expo is being held back at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in Boston, MA, which is a true convention-type setting. We feel that this is better suited for our needs.”
He added that the NEPC’s constant goal is to expand its reach beyond New England, and to inspire industry professionals from other areas to attend the expo and become involved with the Council.
“We have strong representation from neighboring states, as well as from Canada,” said Mr. McGowan.
“We always work toward opening our door to professionals regardless of where they call home. It is no secret that some of the major retailers in our organization are headquartered outside of our traditional borders, and our focus needs to be extended beyond New England in order to better service our members.”