SOUP TO NUTZ

A native of Philadelphia, Maria has been in the food business for most of her career as a manufacturer, distributor and restaurateur. Now with Food Trade News for over 10 years, she likes to say we inform, educate and entertain. She can be reached at maria@foodtradenews.com.

Here we are at the end of a very mild winter season, ready for the beauty of April to spring forth, and bam, we’re hit with an unknown coronavirus that has shut down our lives as we know them. The numbers and alerts change minute to minute, so there is no use in detailing them here. Just remember: no large group socializing, be mindful of others and for goodness sake, wash your hands often! There are many songs other than “Happy Birthday” we can sing for 20 seconds, so get creative and make the best of it.

It has been two months since McCaffrey’s opened its latest store in the Bohemian village of New Hope, PA. The store opening had the entire area excited as the only other supermarket in the area is a Giant. The new McCaffrey’s took the place of a Staples, measuring just over 24,000 square feet. Since that time, the parking lot has been full (never like this when the Staples was there) and the customer reviews have been great. Ken Toth, director of marketing at McCaffrey’s, said that sales are much better than originally expected and that, while finding the right employees was tough at the start, all is in place now. When asked about the coronavirus and how it is affecting the stores, Toth said sales have increased – worse than before a snowstorm – and keeping the shelves stocked is challenging. As for keeping customers safe, he said there are wipes strategically placed throughout the store and store associates are constantly cleaning. In other McCaffrey’s news, COO Fred Brohm officially retired about two weeks ago. We hear he’s heading south to the Florida shores. Enjoy your retirement, Fred.

Even though effective March 11, the Philadelphia 76ers and the rest of the NBA suspended the 2020 season due to the coronavirus, that won’t stop them from teaming up with The Giant Company to address childhood hunger in the greater Philadelphia region. On March 6, leaders from both organizations kicked off a month-long campaign at Southwark School as part of a series of events to raise awareness of and eliminate childhood hunger. “No one, especially children, should have to wonder where their next meal is coming from,” said Matt Simon, chief marketing officer, The Giant Company. “Eliminating hunger in the communities we serve is something Giant is passionate about, and working with the 76ers is one way we can help ensure kids across the region have access to nutritious and delicious food over the weekend, so that they can reach their full potential both in and outside of the classroom.” According to Feeding America, approximately one in five Philadelphia children is food insecure, meaning they don’t have reliable access to enough nutritionally adequate food. This is totally unacceptable. Children dealing with hunger are more likely to be held back a grade in elementary school, have social and behavioral problems, and experience developmental impairments.  “As our partnership with The Giant Company continues, we are looking forward to raising awareness of childhood hunger in Philadelphia throughout the month of March,” Philadelphia 76ers senior VP of corporate partnerships activation Chad Biggs said. “Providing local youth with fresh groceries and educating them about the importance of a healthy diet is something both organizations are eager to do as we aim to reduce, and eventually help eliminate, childhood hunger.” To that end, during the month of March, Giant and the 76ers will partner off the court to raise awareness about childhood hunger in Philadelphia including: each Thursday, Giant and the 76ers will visit elementary schools across the city and deliver 2,500 bags of healthy food to combat weekend child hunger; Giant nutritionists will visit and share healthy eating tips and educate students on how to fill a healthy plate. Giant and the 76ers will close out the month on March 30 with an afternoon of volunteer service at Philabundance. The team will make a special delivery to donate product in time to distribute for the Easter holiday. Both the 76ers and Giant will also raise awareness throughout the month on their social channels and website. Complementing the effort in Philadelphia, The Giant Company’s bi-annual Bag Hunger campaign is now under way at all Giant and Martin’s stores. At checkout, customers are encouraged to donate to their local hunger relief organization. Since 2008, the company’s Bag Hunger fundraising campaigns have raised more than $12 million.

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Speaking of Philabundance and fighting hunger, here’s a new twist on procuring food donations for those who are food insecure. In spring 2019, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) noticed that many of its merchants were tossing good food each night due to the unpredictable nature of food sales at the airport (cancelled flights, delays, etc.). To address this issue, the PHL reached out to Philabundance to set up a program to donate as much safe product as possible. To capture this food, a donation depot was designed with a designated fridge, freezer and shelving where merchants can deliver their surplus product. A Philabundance driver now picks up the product three times a week and delivers it directly to Philabundance’s agency network. Each month, the program donates an average of more than 2,000 pounds of food, substantially lowering their environmental impact and feeding PHL neighbors in need. Fast forward to February 2020: PHL Marketplace has donated 31,471 pounds of safe, quality food and has provided more than 20,000 meals to numerous agencies including: True Vine, City Team and the Salvation Army, located in Chester PA. Participating merchants include: OTG, HMS Host, Hudson Group, Good2Go, Chickie’s & Pete’s and La Colombe.  Going forward, a second donation depot for pickups at Terminals E and F is under construction and expected to open in April. These products are unique because they are ready-to-eat and perfect for the homebound and those without access to a kitchen. Even the equipment was donated: fridge and freezer were donated by Famous Famiglia and Economy – Restaurant Depot. Philabundance believes this program will grow substantially in the next few months and they are aiming for upwards of five to six thousand pounds per month once they reach full speed. Beat hunger…any way you can!

NJBiz, considered to be the leading business publications in New Jersey, recently released its 2020 power rankings. So, we send a tip of the hat to our friends on that list: Joseph Colalillo, ShopRites of Hunterdon and Wakefern chairman; Linda Doherty, New Jersey Food Council; Richard Saker, Saker ShopRites; Bob Unanue and Peter Unanue, Goya Foods; and Mark Clouse, Campbell Soup Company. Congratulations!

The circle of life continues as we send out condolences to the family of Jay Gordon, who passed away on February 27 at the age of 73. Jay was a Philadelphia food broker for more than 50 years, most recently as a partner in Sales Management Partners (SMP) with his friend Harry Arena. Jay’s best friend from the time they were 12 years old, Joel, painted a beautiful portrait of Jay as an extremely kind man with a big heart who loved and lived for his family. It was the most important thing to him. He had his and wife Cathy’s blended family, children Aron (Stacey) Gordon, Jennifer, Amy, Tiffany and Tina and all of the grandchildren over for Sunday dinner often, so much so that Cathy said when they bought a new dining room table it had to open large enough to seat everyone. He was also very close to his sister Merrill Paskel and her husband Len, brother Lane Gordon and his wife Lynda. His baby brother Ian predeceased him. He also loved being a part of the Philadelphia food trade charity scene, sitting on the boards of both PFTO and MAFTO for many years, the latter until his death. In his younger days, Jay really wanted to be an entertainer, but that wasn’t in the cards because the family brokerage business came first. Jay had stories from every year dating back to the 70s, and he loved to tell them to everyone. He had a fabulous voice which he demonstrated at many a karaoke night at MAFTO events. Joel reminisced about Jay’s Chevelle convertible which he loved to drive with the top down and the music loud. It was his way of being one with the universe, according to Rabbi Brad Bleefield. Well, Jay, I hope you are having a blast in heaven, riding in your Chevelle, singing at the top of your lungs and smiling down on us all. The family ahs requested that contributions in Jay’s name be made to the National Kidney Foundation, www.kidney.org. I’m going to miss you.

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Industry veteran Neil Brassell lost his mother, Mildred Brassell (nee Morton), earlier this month. She was an active member of her Catholic community and a long-time volunteer as minority inspector for board of elections, among other activities. Wife of the late Neil Brassell Jr., Mildred was the loving mother of Neil III (Elaine), and his five siblings. She also leaves behind many grandchildren and great grandchildren. The family requests donations go to the Neil J. Brassell Jr. Foundation for Youth Development at 1319 Glen Echo Drive, Huntington Valley, PA 19006, www.BrassellFoundation.org. Rest in peace, Millie.

Birthday shout outs for the breezy month of March go to: Dan Croce, Sprouts Farmers Market; Bill Sumas, Village Supermarkets; Sandy Brown and Jeff Brown, Brown’s Family Markets; Ed Burda, Utz Snacks; Bill Carter, Knauss Foods; Dave Andrews, Kreider Farms; and Bob Unanue, Goya Foods. Buon compleanno a tutti!

Quote of the month: “Where flowers bloom, so does hope…” Lady Bird Johnson