Innovative food rescue efforts allow food bank to give away fresh food

Truckloads of surplus oranges destined for the trash in California are now making their way to homes of needy families in the Twin Cities. Fresh potatoes left to rot in Minnesota farm fields are now being harvested and given to hungry families. Unsold fruit and vegetables, bakery items and even meat that local grocers toss from their shelves are being picked up and redistributed to needy neighbors. It’s called food rescue, and Twin Cities-based Second Harvest Heartland food bank is a national leader in the movement. Nearly half the 97 million pounds of food that Second Harvest gives away each year is fresh. Increasingly, reliance on canned goods and boxed foods is a thing of the past. “It’s a radical change,” said Second Harvest CEO Rob Zeaske. The organization’s staff, many with vast corporate experience, are scouring every point of the nation’s food supply chain — from growers, processors, grocers and even restaurateurs. The goal is to identify possible inefficiency and wastefulness, and then persuade businesses to donate.“It’s an assault to our sensibilities in Minnesota to throw away food,” said April Rog, Second Harvest director of food rescue. “Businesses know it’s just the right thing to do.” The result is healthier, fresher food for Minnesota’s most needy families. The organization also participates in a Midwest regional produce cooperative with food banks in seven states. For instance, Second Harvest combines individual shipments of fruits and vegetables and then redistributes them so neighboring food banks receive greater varieties in the quantities that they can handle. “Food is medicine,” said Zeaske, who pointed out that low-income people often rely on a diet of less expensive starchy, high-fat foods that results in obesity and related illnesses. More than one-third of Second Harvest clients have diabetes, he said. “This is what hunger looks like in Continue Reading

Campbell’s “fresh” foods business suffers as sales decline

CAMDEN, N.J. - Campbell Soup (CPB) said Thursday that quarterly sales declined for its fresh products unit, which the company had been hoping would help it capitalize on the growing interest for fresh and wholesome foods. The maker of canned soups, Pepperidge Farm cookies and V8 juices said sales fell 5 percent for the Campbell Fresh unit on declines of carrots and Bolthouse Farms beverages. When excluding the impact of its acquisition of Garden Fresh Gourmet, sales for the unit dropped 12 percent. CEO Denise Morrison called the results for Campbell Fresh “disappointing,” and said it was mostly the result of execution problems. She said the company was taking steps to ensure the unit “performs to its potential” and that she remains confident in the unit’s ability to deliver growth over the long term. The Camden, N.J., company’s traditional products fared better. Sales for the Simple Meals and Beverages were comparable to a year ago, as gains for Prego sauces offset declines in canned soups and V8 drinks. The biscuits and snacks unit saw a 1 percent sales increase, driven by gains in part by Pepperidge Farm Goldfish cookies. Campbell shares dropped more than 4 percent in premarket trading. For its fiscal fourth quarter, Campbell reported a loss of $81 million, or 26 cents per share, after reporting a profit in the same period a year earlier. Earnings, adjusted for asset impairment costs and non-recurring costs, came to 46 cents per share. Analysts expected earnings of 50 cents per share. Total revenue dipped slightly to $1.69 billion in the period, meeting Wall Street forecasts. For the year, the company reported profit of $563 million, or $1.81 per share. Revenue was reported as $7.96 billion. Campbell expects full-year earnings in the range of $3 to $3.09 per share. Campbell shares dropped $2.77, or 4.6 percent, to $57.95 in premarket trading about an hour before the market open. They have risen 16 percent since the beginning of Continue Reading

To feed investors, McDonald’s aims to deliver tastier food

Since becoming McDonald’s (MCD) CEO in 2015, Steve Easterbrook has won kudos from Wall Street for tactical tweaks such as serving breakfast all day and selling corporate-owned restaurants to franchisees. Next on the menu: improving the company’s food. The Home of the Golden Arches said Thursday that, starting next year, most McDonald’s restaurants will use fresh beef in their signature Quarter Pounder, rather than the frozen patties operators have used since the burger was introduced in 1971. Under Easterbrook’s leadership, McDonald’s has also promised to use only cage-free eggs by 2025 and plans to quit using artificial preservatives in Chicken McNuggets. Transforming the Quarter Pounder, however, may be easier say than done, according to franchise consultant Richard Adams, who described the chain’s plan as something that “may well be unrealistic.” “Everyone should keep in mind that McDonald’s is being run by people with little or no real restaurant experience,” he said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. “They’re a bunch of accountants and marketing people who’ve never run a restaurant or cooked a Quarter Pounder. Accountants and marketing people are good at coming up with plans that look good on paper but may not work in real life.” Becca Hary, a spokeswoman for McDonald’s, declined to disclose the projected costs to restaurant owners of using fresh beef. “We will work closely with our franchisees on all aspects of this transition,” she said in an email. “ As in most cases, our size and scale are a benefit.” Franchisees have complained for years that their profits have shrunk and costs have risen, straining their relationship with McDonald’s leadership. Investment consulting firm Segal Macro Advisors has called for a shareholder vote on a proposal to give independent restaurant owners a new kind of preferred stock that lets them elect a board Continue Reading

Amazon’s fresh food hurdle: Getting people to buy online

NEW YORK - Can Amazon (AMZN), the company that persuaded people to buy ever more items online, win enough of them over to having their fresh groceries arrive in an Amazon box? Going full throttle into groceries by announcing a $13.7 billion deal for Whole Foods (WFM) on Friday, Amazon gets the advantage of using the stores as mini-distribution hubs to deliver items to customers. But online delivery of groceries has been tough to pull off. Some shoppers worry about the quality of their produce and say they're rather pick their pears themselves. Amazon, though its Prime benefits program has created strong loyalty, has a long way to go before it's a default choice in groceries as it often is for books and electronics. And shoppers may be skittish about having Amazon take over one more element of their shopping experience. "It's funny. I was just ordering something on Amazon," said Nick Yezierski, a hotel manager who was eating breakfast outside the Whole Foods flagship store in Austin, Texas. "But I don't really buy any home items on Amazon, not anything I put in my body." Peter Belanger of Newington, Connecticut, who was shopping at a Whole Foods in West Hartford, said he didn't think he'd be interested in groceries online. "Most of us like to see what we're buying, and it's a good store, but we just wouldn't buy online," he said. "That's something that doesn't seem to right to me, actually." In Jackson, Mississippi, 59-year-old Deborah Sullivan says she does order some items online, but when it comes to clothes and food, she prefers to touch and feel the items. Her daughter Bethany Capels agrees and says she likes Whole Foods for the organic fruits she can serve her kids. "Consumers want to know what they're getting and putting in their bodies," said Madeline Hurley, a senior analyst at market research firm IBISWorld. "Books are lot more homogenous," she said, noting that a hardcover Harry Potter book is the same at Amazon — though Amazon can sell it at a lower Continue Reading

John Klein: New program delivers fresh foods to families, staff at Jenks Southeast Elementary

The first thing Amy Berkinshaw pulled out of her farm-to-table bag was a green vegetable. “It still had roots,” she said. “It looked like it had just been picked.” In fact, it had. “We picked these greens yesterday,” said Steve Smith, who delivered bags of edibles to Jenks Southeast Elementary School on a recent Wednesday. Berkinshaw, a school counselor, is among a growing number of teachers and staff participating in a new program at Jenks Public Schools. It is one thing to talk to young students about eating well and healthy lifestyles. It is another to live it. The school district has partnered with Local Farm OK to bring farm-fresh goods to families with a portion of the proceeds going back into Jenks Public Schools. The bags of fresh food, sort of a farmers market on wheels, were delivered recently to Jenks Southeast teachers and families. They came from Sage Farms near Glenpool. “This is all about fresher local products,” said Ashley Neal of Local Farm OK. “These foods are picked at peak ripeness, so the nutritional value is higher. “These were not picked three weeks before ripe and then shipped halfway across the country. These were picked, put in a bag and delivered just a few miles from where it was grown.” Most of the products were delivered from farms and greenhouses less than 15 minutes from the school. “It is right in our backyard,” said Rob Loeber, director of communications for Jenks Public Schools. “It is a local company doing business with a local school district. It is ideal. We think it is a great benefit to our staff and our families. It is so new, so we’re still waiting to see what the response will be, but so far people are very interested. “We talk a lot about the health and well-being of everyone in our school system. This is another step in that direction.” Just four customers participated in the first weekly delivery in early January. It Continue Reading

Eating fresh food is easier than you think

Eating fresh and healthy food doesn’t have to be hard. At a time when most people own a smart device that will grant them access to the internet, ordering fresh fruits and vegetables from a local grocery store can be as simple as clicking a mouse. There are other options, yet, including subscription bags filled with local produce can be delivered to your door. For example, Local Farm OK offers locally grown and made products that can be delivered to your home or office. The Tulsa company will celebrate its second anniversary in February, when it started offering a farm-to-home service. “We are farmers who wanted to deliver the farmers market to your doorstep,” said Ashley Neal, who owns Local Farm OK with her husband, Ben. “It’s a true local product. (Customers) are interested in knowing where their food comes from.” Deliveries include seasonal items such as strawberries in the spring, tomatoes in the summer, potatoes in the fall and grapefruit in the winter through partnerships with area growers. In addition to the subscription service, the Neals own Sage Farms, where they grow a variety of lettuces, Swiss chards and other vegetables. Ashley Neal added that the ongoing movement of wanting to know the farmers and people who grow the food that ends up on the dinner table has been a big push for their service. Area farmers markets also offer home cooks a variety of fresh produce and products, even through the winter months. From November to April, the Tulsa Farmers’ Market Winter Market occupies the Whole Foods Market parking lot at 1401 E. 41st St. from 8:30 to 11 a.m. every other Saturday. The next market is Jan. 13. “Right now, it’s pretty limited — with it being winter — to different greens available, and you can find squash and sweet potatoes,” said Kris Hutto, Tulsa Farmers’ Market administrator. The majority of the farmers market vendors are located about an hour out Continue Reading

Community gardens grow tons of fresh food for the poor in Westchester, Rockland

Thanks to dozens of plots in community gardens scattered across the Lower Hudson Valley, patrons of local soup kitchens and food pantries will be enjoying tons of just-picked produce this year. Along with the expected boxes of cereal and jars of peanut butter, they can now look forward to just-picked collards, tomatoes, hot peppers and eggplants, even homegrown herbs like cilantro and basil.Through its Plant a Row for the Hungry program, People to People, Rockland’s largest food pantry, now collects between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds of produce each year from community groups, home gardeners and local farms.Big contributors include Cropsey Farm in New City, the Rockland Farm Alliance, the Nyack Garden Club and ambitious home gardeners like Tom Brizzolara, public affairs director of Orange and Rockland Utilities, who regularly drops off several pounds of vegetables from his garden. “We call him the Zucchini King,” says Diane Serratore, executive director of People to People in Nanuet, which serves 1,400 families a month.“We really make an effort to get fresh produce to our families,” she says. “There are lots of hungry people out there and if there are new ways to put food on their table we’ll do it.”Every spring, summer and fall for the last 14 years, master gardener volunteers from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester have grown about 2,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and berries at the Demonstration Gardens at the Harts Brook Park and Preserve in Hartsdale. Every carrot, raspberry and cherry tomato goes to the pantry and soup kitchen at the women’s shelter at Grace Church in White Plains.“Before the end of the month, we’ll start delivering, and the last one is around Thanksgiving with greens, pumpkins, leeks and squash,” says garden co-chair Andrea Kish.They also use the planting beds to teach gardening basics to school and community groups and to test new vegetable varieties from year to Continue Reading

Farm on wheels will deliver fresh produce to Indy food deserts

Jonathan Lawler planted a seed a year ago that has multiplied into so much goodness even he is surprised.The Greenfield farmer decided last spring to turn a chunk of his livelihood into a nonprofit with the goal to feed the community. Brandywine Creek Farms was a leap of faith, but its yield is poised to touch all corners of Central Indiana."My job as a farmer is to feed the world, and we have people going hungry in my backyard," Lawler said at that time.Now, he has partnered with two local hospitals to take his farm on the road.The Rolling Harvest Food Truck, sponsored by Community Health Network, will take fresh, locally produced food into communities where it is scarce, particularly on the city's east side. It will be offered at little to no cost to those it aims to serve."Jonathan came to us with his mission of improving access to food for those in food deserts," said Priscilla Keith, the hospital's executive director for community benefit. "But in addition to providing food, he also wants to educate the community, particularly children, about how food is grown, what kinds of food grow here and to let them know fresh food is best if you can get it."The 30-foot trailer packed with 6,000 to 7,000 pounds of fresh produce harvested at Lawler's Greenfield farm and at an urban farm on the east side will make weekly (or more frequent) stops at four east-side locations: Community Hospital East, 1500 N. Ritter Ave.; Community Alliance of the Far East Side Farmers Market (CAFÉ), 8902 E. 38th St.; The Cupboard Pantry, 7101 Pendleton Pike; and Shepherd Community Center, 4107 E. Washington St. Eventually, the program could be expanded to the hospital's north and south sites. More about urban agriculture: This urban farm will feed an Indy food desert How Hamilton County gardeners are helping feed their hungry neighbors Community pitched in $25,000 for some of the pilot program's expenses, while Lawler Continue Reading

College reunions stir up old feelings, feed gossip mills and fail to deliver good food

I've just come back from a Second Quarter rite of passage: my first college reunion. It's been five years since my classmates and I burst with fresh faces and big ideas into a "real world" that was nothing like the one we'd seen on MTV. I returned to the scene of our education (and partying) with mixed feelings. Would everyone be super accomplished? Would anyone remember me? Turns out there was still some learning to be done. 1. People look good. Then again, it has only been five years. In the words of one of my buddies, "Just wait until the 10-year reunion, when everyone will have more kids and less hair." 2. A reunion is a gossip smorgasbord. For an ex-gossip reporter, a chatty, tipsy group is a tantalizing buffet. Affairs. Dramatic firings. People who left investment banking to live in a yurt in the jungle. You'll hear it all. 3. Five years out, a life/work balance doesn't exist. You'll meet people with awesome careers, and people with great-sounding homes, babies and marriages. But not the same people. In the first five years of adult life, my generation had to choose one or the other. The next five years are when we try to even out the balance. "I got a huge signing bonus at my firm," said one friend who recently started consulting. "But if I quit within the next two years I have to give it back." He went on to talk about his 20-hour workdays and his strained, long-distance relationship, and concluded, "I might have to give it back." 4. The food won't be that great. Two words: tough kabobs. 5. Facebook is going to freak you out. Not only will people remember your name, but people you've never seen before will know your job, your boyfriend's job and your neighborhood. Just smile, and practice discreetly reading name tags. 6. There's gonna be some frisky business. Look around at cocktail hour, when everyone is chatting in small groups, for the pair talking very intently, only to each other. 7. Speaking of frisky business, old habits die hard. Continue Reading

Food goes digital: Online grocery shopping becomes fastest-growing sector in U.S. retail

Because of people like Sarah Fracek — plus some who aren’t at all like her — a retail sector that once seemed nearly immune to the internet’s economic disruption has become an increasingly digital thing.Fracek does almost all of her grocery shopping online.“I hate going into a grocery store,” said Fracek, 34, a Wauwatosa resident who doesn’t mind spending a few extra dollars to have someone else assemble her grocery order and either deliver it or have it ready for her to pick up.“I’m working super late, and I really value the time that I have that’s ‘me’ time,” she said.A tech-savvy, time-starved population, led by folks like Fracek in the 18-35 age group, has catapulted digital grocery shopping into the fastest-growing segment in U.S. retail.“This is no longer something to just keep an eye on,” says the Food Marketing Institute, a retail food trade group based in Arlington, Va. “It’s happening, and it’s habituating very large numbers of people very quickly to online-only providers and to the online channel for groceries.”The organization has been surveying trends in the industry for 40 years. Its latest survey, released this month, describes growth the likes of which it doesn’t ever expect to see again: In 2017, 43% of millennials surveyed said they shop online for groceries at least occasionally — a 50% jump from 2016, with much of the growth coming among those who say they shop for groceries online “either fairly often or all the time.”Fast growthThe phenomenon is not necessarily bad for conventional grocery stores, which are moving quickly and aggressively into the digital marketplace.Milwaukee-based Sendik’s Food Markets introduced online grocery service in the fall of 2015.“Research will tell you it is the fastest-growing form of all retail by leaps and bounds, far surpassing Continue Reading