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“Now it seems that purple-hued vegetables are hotter than ever. Frieda’s Specialty Produce has declared 2013 The Year of Purple.  So why the sudden fame?  Purple vegetables have a lot to boast about. The same compounds that put blueberries on the map as a superfood are what make purple vegetables potential disease fighters, too. The dark pigments responsible for the purplish tones are called anthocyanins, a type of phytonutrient that is gaining attention from scientists worldwide.  Studies suggest that anthocyanins may help reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Some evidence indicates these purple pigments might also protect our brains as we age.”

Read the full article: Nutrition Unplugged.

Yesterday morning, I did a 30-minute interview over Skype™ with a reporter from Chile in South America. Believe it or not, he had heard about our “Let’s Move Salad Bars to California Schools” Campaign (I wrote about it back in October 2012). He was intrigued with our success in getting the produce industry to rally around such a unique cause.

A quick refresher: Last July, I joined three fellow produce industry leaders and we asked companies and individuals to invest in kids through our salad bar program. We asked anyone and everyone who would listen to invest $2,625.00 for each portable salad bar unit that could be installed in school cafeterias. This would allow schools to offer a “make your own salad” option for students.

Our original goal was to fund 350 school salad bars in California. But more schools continued to apply for salad bars, so we kept increasing our goal.

Our campaign concluded last week with a press conference in San Diego at an annual produce industry convention. It was standing room only! Attendees included school foodservice directors from around California; the Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, Walter Robb (their Whole Kids Foundation donated more than 200 salad bars); the Superintendent of California Schools, Tom Torlakson; plus over 20 elementary and high school students who wanted to share the impact salad bars have made on their lives.

We revealed our final results to a breathless crowd: We collected more than $1.1 million in donations, funding 436 school salad bars!

That’s me in the purple revealing our results!

Why were we so committed? Because we learned when school-aged kids are given the opportunity to choose their own foods for lunch, like fresh salad, we can create healthy eating habits which will impact them for the rest of their life!

Here is the video of the salad bar press conference. It starts at 0:29. Please use and share!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Be Inspired,

Karen

Have you noticed the quality of celery has not been up to par lately? During the last six weeks, no matter which store I buy my heads of celery at, whether they’re organic or conventional, the heads look puny, don’t have a bright green color, and go bad quickly.

So, lucky for me, at the recent produce industry Women’s Fresh Perspective’s Conference I attended in Scottsdale, AZ, I was seated next to a woman who sells celery for a living! Did you even know a job like that existed?

Her name is Susan, and she works for the leading grower of celery, and had a lot to say about celery quality! She told me at this time of year, most celery is “going to seed.” This means a vegetable knows its’ natural season is over and is going into hibernation. Because we are so spoiled here in the U.S., we try to have everything year-round when, in fact, not every fruit or vegetable is naturally available year-round.

So, when it’s the fruit or veggies’ off season, we can probably expect less than perfect quality. The company Susan works for, Duda Farm Fresh Foods, actually has an extensive celery breeding program, and over 1200 new celery lines each year. They want to yield the best product in every region they grow in. Each region needs its own special seed variety to work well with the particular soil, weather, moisture, etc.

Then I realized that I had, in fact, tried Duda’s Dandy Celery just the week before. I happened to go to Costco one evening, which I rarely do, so I took a quick tour of the produce department. I noticed this jumbo bag of celery sticks and purchased it, because the quality looked impressive.

Two weeks later, I am still munching through that bag and the quality is still great! Susan told me that because Duda puts so many resources into celery breeding, they can offer excellent quality all year!

After weeks of being frustrated with my weekly purchase of celery, I now know that it is possible to have good tasting celery year-round. I just have to find the right grower!

And now you know!

Karen

Do you have a friend who is a great connector/networker? You know, that person who always offers to introduce you to new people you might have something in common with?

That perfectly describes my friend, Betsy. Not only is Betsy a connector, but she happens to be a recruiter for Adecco USA, which is the world’s largest workforce solutions provider (the fancy name for what we used to call an employment agency or temporary services).

Earlier this week, Betsy introduced me to Adecco USA’s President, Joyce Collier Russell, who was in town. Turns out, Joyce’s family is a third generation farming family from the heart of Florida. So, the three of us sat at dinner in Santa Monica, California, talking about produce conventions, packing produce and merits of Indian River Grapefruit (the best tasting grapefruit ever).

Eventually, I asked Joyce why she was in town. Turns out Adecco has a global initiative called “Way to Work™.” On Tuesday, April 30, in Detroit, New York and Los Angeles, Adecco hosted simultaneous, day-long, Way to Work™ career-a-thons, where young professionals could get personal, hands-on job hunting and career advice. Joyce was in California to show her support for over 25 local Adecco team members, who gave up time to coach young professionals for free. With youth unemployment in California nearly double the national average, this is a fantastic program that serves an important need.

My friend Betsy is on the right.

Joyce Russell interacting with attendees.

So, what was it like having dinner with the President of a MULTI-BILLION dollar corporation?

Well, first of all, it was personally inspiring to know that a woman is the President of this huge entity. And to find out she got her start in business by selling produce is a great story. I was struck by her personal drive, her commitment to her fellow Adecco team members and, of course, her diligence to serve their clients, the who’s who of business in America.

As we were leaving dinner, I let Joyce and Betsy know that, coincidentally, I was spending the rest of the week at a prominent California university (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) and was speaking to an Ag Marketing Class of third and fourth year students about career opportunities in our produce industry.

One of my personal missions is to mentor young people. It is always invigorating to go on campus, feel young again and hang out with a group of up and coming Millennials.

Have you ever mentored someone? It’s personally rewarding and gives new meaning to paying it forward.

Try it!

Karen