March 31, 2020

United Fresh shares update on COVID-19 efforts

The United Fresh Produce Association issued this statement from CEO & President Tom Stenzel on March 30 regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic:

“As always, I can never begin one of these updates without saying thank you to all of you on the front lines, whether growing, harvesting, packing, shipping, transporting, delivering, preparing for take-out meals, or selling to our end customers at retail.

“We’re continuing to work on the simultaneous priorities to support you in keeping the fresh produce supply chain moving, and driving financial relief for those most affected by this crisis.

“Today’s update on keeping the supply chain moving:

“We’ve gathered data on your needs for personal protective materials such as gloves and masks in the food sector and working closely with FDA to direct supplies to food needs immediately following healthcare and medical needs.

“We’re working with the Department of Homeland Security to accelerate screening for food workers, so we can assure our customers that individuals with the virus are not working.

“We’re reaching out to Congress on special pay incentives to front line food industry workers to continue coming to work and feeding America. We are all dependent on these food heroes and we need to support them in coming to work.

“We continue to push out the industry-wide protocols for how food companies can continue to operate, including how to best protect workers and what to do when a worker tests positive.

“And, we continue to counter misinformation that scares people about food or produce. This virus is passed through respiratory droplets from an infected person, and not food.

“On the financial side:

“We’ve organized and sent a letter signed by more than 70 produce associations supporting a common request to USDA for funding priorities. We’re united in our focus on pushing funding into the industry that prevents bankruptcies, rather than waiting for business failures to collect from assets.

“Many of these regional organizations are now reaching out to their Congressional delegations to drive support for the produce industry’s ‘ask’

“We’ve found a lot of confusion still about PACA and the PACA Trust, so have urged USDA to update their FAQ page from last week. You need to know your rights and where PACA can help everyone in the produce sales chain.

“For those in small businesses under 500 employees, we urge you to look at the SBA loans included in the new CARES Act. If you use these loans to keep your employees paid through this period, the loans can become grants that do not have to be repaid!

“Finally, we continue every effort possible to drive new sales of produce — from retail to consumers, from foodservice to retailers, schools and food banks. Growers everywhere are bringing produce forward to feed America, and we need distribution to get these foods into homes and stomachs. This is about America’s health, as well as America’s hunger. Some of that will include new USDA funding, and some will find its way into new partnerships needed to feed Americans.

“While we’re not on the front lines with you, the team here at United Fresh believes it’s our honor to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables to drive what demand 25 people can. Have a little fun with us here and see what we’ve all be eating, and where we’ve been getting our take-out meals and shopping in the Washington, D.C. area.”