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A Message from Tom Stenzel on Coronavirus/COVID-19

May 26, 2020

May 26, 2020

Dear produce industry member,

For those of you in the United States, I hope you were able to honor our country’s heroes and also enjoy a little time with friends and family on the long Memorial Day weekend. Whether in person or virtual, those connections we have remain ever so important during these trying times.

Two topics tonight: the USDA is beginning today to accept applications for direct payments to growers and producers under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). We have created a very detailed webpage to help you understand who is eligible, what information will be needed, and how to apply.  Many of you are eligible for this support, so we urge you to be sure to investigate the program and apply.

While USDA is limited to direct payments to growers, these payments also are meant to help reduce the burdens associated with the inability of some customers to pay for produce that had been delivered before the shut down of the foodservice sector. If growers still have outstanding bills to good customers, these payments can help offset some of those as well.

Like most programs, I’m sure there will be some hiccups – our industry has little to no experience with direct payments, and the folks at USDA will be learning a lot about our systems as well in this process.

Shifting gears, I want to tell you about my experience this past Friday with our friends at Paragon Foods and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. I was fortunate to participate with them in a “truck to trunk” delivery program of produce boxes packed by Paragon under the USDA Farmers to Families program. Folks, this is how it’s meant to work! I was so moved by the commitment of the food bank staff, the many volunteers placing boxes in people’s trunks, the folks at the warehouse at Paragon packing the boxes, and of course the Paragon and food bank leaders who were making this possible. 

A special shout-out to Lisa Scales, President & CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Elaine Bellin, David Golomb and Edd Dwyer of Paragon, and Carolyn and Scott McQuiston of Dawson’s Orchards. 

If you wonder whether there’s a real need out there for fresh fruits and vegetables, take a look at this line-up of cars picking up boxes. Here’s a media story from the press conference we did. And, last but not least, thanks to Susan Albright and the team at Paragon for packing boxes and making us all look good!

PS: Tomorrow morning we’re going to publish our first registration list for United Fresh LIVE!, debuting in just three short weeks! We’ve had more than 2,500 individuals from around the world sign up in just the past month, and we know thousands more to come. I’ll give you a preview here if you don’t tell anyone!

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