By: Kate Olender, Senior Director, Health & Wellness, United Fresh Produce Association
This year, Hugh Topper, Group Vice President of Fresh Foods for H-E-B received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the United Fresh Start Foundation Annual Conference & Gala Dinner.
Though kids in Seguin, Texas might not recognize the name “Hugh Topper,” they do recognize his impact every day in their school cafeterias. Each of the seven salad bars in Seguin Independent School District’s seven elementary schools, donated by Hugh Topper and H-E-B’s partnership with Dole, feature a variety of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables. The kids who enjoy daily salads from one of these salad bars are building healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime – selecting their own fresh fruits and vegetables, tasting them with friends, and making “fresh” part of their daily routines.
Topper has long believed that the fresh fruit and vegetable industry is well positioned to improve the health of their community, and it has a responsibility to do so. And while the kids who benefit from the salad bar may not shop for groceries today, they do tell their caregivers about the delicious salad they had in school and ask for those same foods at home.
Topper’s commitment to ensuring kids are Growing Up Fresh doesn’t end with salad bars. Through another partnership with Dole, Topper and H-E-B recently launched “Let’s Get Growing,” a 12-week program for low-income elementary schools in South Texas. The program provides second graders in twelve schools with their own “Garden in a Box,” so they can grow their own fruits and vegetables at home. The program also includes in-school nutrition and agriculture education, cooking demonstrations, and fresh produce sampling.
Topper exemplifies the mission of the United Fresh Start Foundation, dedicating himself both personally and professionally to increasing children’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables. “Investing in our children has the power to change the way future generations see the importance of health and wellness in their lives,” he says. His words serve as a reminder that business investments in our children have an impact for decades to come.