ANAHEIM, CA – If you were setting up your Fresh Summit booth yesterday and heard a lot of screaming and cheering, it is because colleagues of our industry were breaking through the finish line outside of the Anaheim Convention Center. Depending on the rider and what course they took, this meant anywhere from 275 to nearly 320 miles, and 18 or 25 hours in the saddle, but it all came down to three and a half days of cycling to raise the bar for how many salad bars Tour de Fresh could donate to schools across the United States.
While the initial oversized check California Giant Berry Farms’ Morgan Maitoza and Cindy Jewell presented to United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel read $174, 649, donations kept rolling in so that by the time the check was presented the official number was a record-setting $175,000 total.
“Let me just say thank you, thank you to all the riders for what you’ve done this week, those of you who’ve done it before, all the sponsors, Cal Giant Foundation who had the original vision for this, thank all of you for what you’ve done. $175,000 is the highest total Tour de Fresh has ever raised in a single year—add that to what came from their first five and we are going to beat a million dollars next year…unless there is someone who would like to chip in now,” Tom Stenzel shared to laughter and cheers from Finish Line Ceremony attendees.
Senator Ling Ling Chang of the 29th District also spoke to the monumental different Tour de Fresh is making sharing that, as a Member of the California Senate California Education committee, the cause is one close to her heart and spoke to a new bill to tackle food-related issues.
“Clearly our work is not done on this front, but it’s not just about what politicians are doing in Sacramento, but the work Tour de Fresh is doing that is already changing lives,” Senator Chang said. The Senator went on to share how impressed she was with the cyclists of the Tour de Fresh, having used to ride her bike from Anaheim to Huntington Beach herself. On that note she added, “I’m thinking, next year I might join you all for that trek. I want to grow up to be like you, thank you all for having me here today, it truly is an honor, thank you for what you do.”
Council Member Stephen Faessel, Anaheim City, District 5 spoke to the grandness of the upward of 300 miles trekked to make Tour de Fresh 2019 a success before emphasizing that it really comes down to the kids the ride serves.
“Your legs are probably a little tired, I don’t doubt that. But the money and hard work you’ve raised really has paid off,” he said. “It’s about the meals you will be providing, the extra help you’re giving to these kids to make healthy choices.”
It’s about family, a point emphasized both by nominated speaker for the riders Raina Nelson of Renaissance Food Group and by Morgan as she brought up and honored the support and logistics team to thunderous applause.
“When Cindy Jewell and Cal Giant’s vision of riding bikes to put salad bars in schools became a reality I wanted to be a part of that mission, and I keep coming back for the pain. A couple of years ago, we coined the name Tour de Family, and it’s so true. To raise money for over 50 salad bars to nourish and fuel these kids, millions of kids, and extension of our Tour de Family. Accomplished something great for a cause that is even greater, this ride has been the best yet. Coming back to do it again and again,” she said.
Also coming back again and again are another necessary component of Tour de Fresh: the sponsors that work about as behind the scenes as it gets.
“We have a lot of sponsors that put this thing on every year and we can’t thank you all enough. We thank God every year they show up, help us out, and help us get from Point A all the way to Point Z to get here,” Cindy Jewell, Vice President of Marketing for California Giant Berry Farms, said at yesterday’s Finish Line Ceremony.
One of those sponsors, Gold Coast Farms, was present for a delicious dinner they provided the whole team after a grueling Day Two and looking down the barrel at Day Three.
Bill Munger, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the sponsor, not only thanked this year’s participants but explained that the cause was near and dear to him.
“For us, as a sponsor, it means so much that you would take time out of your lives to spend this week raising money for salad bars—the school salad bar program is really dear to me. My niece is a teacher in Elk Grove, California, and that school is almost 90 percent under the poverty level. They are eating at school,” he shared, explaining that his niece encountered a day where she discovered her students weren’t familiar with zucchini. “So, thanks to what you are doing, kids around the country are going to know what a zucchini is now.”
Those that were there to see riders at the podium also got to hear from those directly impacted by their hard work.
Manish Singh, Director of Food Services for Los Angeles Unified Schools, expressed how much the district appreciates the several salad bars they will be getting thanks to the hard work done by the Tour to help enhance programs they are putting in place to help expand children’s exposure to all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Salad bars are something we are growing with. Also, recently we started a farm to school program, and I can tell you we have been working with one of the growers and has been so well received, nothing hits the trash can,” Singh shared proudly. “Everything we are serving to the kids, they are consuming it, they are devouring it, and asking about when they can have the next one.”
South Whittier School District also will be a recipient of the Salad Bar for Schools programs, talking to how the district is 96 percent free and reduced, giving students access to what they can’t get at home, welcoming Tour de Fresh and the good work it does to their family.
“When we started the Salad Bars for Schools booth about ten years ago, we had no idea what it might blossom into. We are now pushing 6,000 salad bars to schools across the country, primarily in those low-income areas where they can’t afford it but are now getting fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s because of the passion people like you have brought to this,” Tom concluded as the ceremony came to a close.
To the organizers at California Giant Foundation who brought this event to life, the sponsors who give it a foundation and room to grow, the support crew and logistics operators whom without the ride would not be able to exist, and of course the riders, who literally put their blood, sweat, and tears into this cause, I thank you for the honor of five years of getting to see and be a part of such an amazing part of our industry.