Wegman Family Charitable Foundation representatives presented a gift of $250,000 to Center for Produce Safety officers today, during opening ceremonies for CPS’s second annual Produce Research Symposium in Orlando, Fla. The gift is the first made from the retail sector since CPS was founded in 2007.
Danny Wegman, chairman of the board of the foundation and chief executive officer of the family-owned regional supermarket chain Wegmans Food Markets, cited several key influences in the family foundation’s decision to support CPS’s work. They include his recent service as chair of Food Marketing Institute’s Food Safety Task Force and his recognition of the need to strengthen consumer confidence in the safety of fresh produce.
“We are very enthusiastic about CPS’s approach to creating a better understanding of fresh produce’s food safety challenges, from fast tracking food safety research, to getting those results in the hands of the diverse community that affects produce safety,” said Wegman. Admitting he hoped to spur some healthy competitive giving, he added, “Frankly, we hope our gift will prompt others to support CPS’s very important efforts.”
The foundation’s gift will support CPS’s competitive research grant programs, according to Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, the center’s executive director. The center funds produce-general and commodity-specific research to address the fresh produce industry’s food safety research needs. To date, CPS has provided $6.8 million to fund 43 research projects, with the help of its public- and private-sector research partners. Another $3 million in funds will be awarded later this summer, in response to CPS’s spring 2011 request for proposals.
“We are honored that the Wegman family has this confidence in our programs, and we commend them for their leadership in encouraging other retailers to join the effort to bring the most current produce safety science into use,” said Fernandez-Fenaroli. “It takes innovative collaborations like this to engage the entire produce supply chain to invest in food safety.”