Food Forum: Producing for a cause

The upcoming Produce for Kids spring promotion will benefit local Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.

By Heidi McIntyre

Produce for Kids, a cause marketing organization that promotes the benefits of healthy eating and supports worthy causes for children, crossed the $3 million mark in donations through the end of 2010.

Created in 2002 by John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce Inc., Produce for Kids engages in two, month-long promotional campaigns in the produce department of participating grocery stores; one in the fall and one in the spring. The spring campaign (May/June) raises funds to benefit local Children’s Miracle Network hospitals in each participating market. The fall campaign (Septem­ber/Oc­tober) supports nutrition education and health initiatives for kids and parents.

Here is how Produce for Kids’ cause marketing promotional campaign works: Sponsors make a per unit/box donation for each item that is shipped into a participating retailer’s market during the campaign.
The promotional campaigns, executed in the produce department for participating retailers, com­bine advertising, display ma­terials, public relations activities and Internet marketing with fun games and activities for kids and resources for parents.

The Produce for Kids program has been embraced by the produce industry; multiple supermarkets participate along with fresh produce companies that represent nearly every major produce category. All funds raised directly benefit the participating children’s non-profit or­ganization.

Since its inception, Produce for Kids has raised more than $3.1 million for children’s organizations, including the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals and PBS KIDS. Produce for Kids is also a performance-based program, and has been shown to increase sales across all participating sponsor categories as well as enhance participating retailers’ commitments to children and their communities.

In 2010, Produce for Kids expanded its core offering to feature a healthy meal solutions program called Ideal Meals that was promoted in-store as well as online.

Ideal Meals are 4” X 6” meal cards merchandised in self-contained, colorful display units that contain fast, easy tips for shopping and assembling healthy meals using sponsors’ products. Each meal features fresh produce items using sponsored products developed by a registered dietitian to meet the recommended dietary guidelines set by the USDA.

Consumer research shows that moms want information about healthy cooking in the produce department. Ideal Meals cards make it easy for moms to shop for and prepare healthy meals.

In the fall of 2010, Produce for Kids partnered with four retailers representing more than 1,500 grocery stores in 20 states in the Eat Smart for a Great Start campaign to benefit PBS KIDS.

The participating retailers this fall included Price Chopper, Giant Food Stores, Martin’s Food Markets, Meijer and Publix Super Markets, which collectively raised more than $194,000.

Produce for Kids newly designed website creates more exposure for all sponsors and retailers and has become a 12-month resource for shoppers and a home for the Ideal Meals program. In addition, 68% of consumers surveyed online rank the website as educational and useful.

In 2010, Produce for Kids also partnered for the first time with chef Marshall O’Brien, a specialist in healthy cooking, to demonstrate Ideal Meals in a series of short videos housed on produceforkids.org. Chef Marshall will be helping to create the Ideal Meal recipe series for 2011 with the assistance of PFK’s advisory board of nutritionists.

Looking ahead to the spring 2011 campaign, Produce for Kids will have 11 participating retailers in more than 2,500 stores nationwide.  This will be the largest campaign to date.

“We want to teach people that it is easy to make healthy eating part of their family’s daily regimen and stick to a budget at the same time,” says Kim Lathbury, marketing director of Produce for Kids. “We appreciate all of our friends in the produce industry who support our efforts throughout the year. Together, we can do great things for children.”

Heidi McIntyre is the executive director for Produce for Kids. The organization’s website is www.produceforkids.org.

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