By: Ben Massoud, Communications Manager, United Fresh Produce Association
Raina Nelson never envisioned she would be cycling nearly 300 miles over the span of just four days. On July 23-26, she will accomplish that feat for the fifth year in a row, when she joins nearly 50 other produce industry cyclists in the Tour De Fresh.
Tour de Fresh, hosted by the California Giant Foundation, is a four-day, 275-mile cycling fundraiser that benefits Salad Bars to Schools, a national initiative co-founded by the United Fresh Start Foundation. Salad Bars to Schools places salad bars in school cafeterias across the country, and is one program through which the United Fresh Start Foundation fulfills its mission to increase children’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Raina’s combined passion for the produce industry and commitment to the United Fresh Start Foundation’s mission influenced her decision to participate in the inaugural Tour de Fresh in 2014. As soon as she crossed the finish line that year, it became apparent to her just how impactful this event is. She’s ridden in the Tour de Fresh to raise money for the foundation ever since.
“Reflecting on my first ride; thinking of the miles we cycled, and witnessing the presentation of that first check, I realized how those dollars we worked so hard to raise would afford innumerable kids the opportunity to experience fresh,” she said. “A few years later, I heard firsthand excitement from the kids who had benefited from the salad bars we rode to provide. There is no greater feeling of accomplishment than hearing directly from kids who are benefiting, which continues to fuel my strong support for the foundation and for this ride year after year,” Raina added.
Salad bars provide students with healthy choices, and research shows that they increase the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables students eat in schools. They can help children establish healthy lifestyle habits and appreciate how good nutrition fuels a happy and balanced life.
Last year Raina visited a school that she helped provide with a salad bar. She witnessed how big of a hit the salad bar was among students. “A lot of the kids come to school hungry and they look forward to being nourished by the salad bar,” Raina shares. “To see positive responses from the kids really made it all worth it and I would do it every year forward just for that reason.”
While the impact the salad bars have on children is invaluable, the riders also benefit from Tour de Fresh. “Tour de Fresh is a truly unique platform, uniting our industry like no other event,” Raina explains. “It connects all facets of the supply chain from food companies, to growers, retailers, and processors like myself, allowing us to collectively work towards a common mission that we’re all really passionate about.”
And perhaps it is the unity and support of a common goal that sets the tone for the ride. “There’s a sense – at the beginning of the day and at the end of day – that you’re in this together,” Raina said. “There’s really no competition in the ride. People are there to support you and keep you motivated. The level of camaraderie and the sense of family is immediate.”
Thank you, Raina, for your continued commitment to helping ensure kids are growing up fresh! And to all the riders this year, thank you and good luck! We’ll see you at the finish.