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Northwest distributors partner for food box fulfillment

A $25 million government contract for six weeks seems massive and daunting, but if anyone can fulfill it, it’s a company like Pacific Coast Fruit Co. BB #:100777 Portland, OR.

“We’ve been doing this a long time, distributing massive quantities of fruits and vegetables in Washington and Oregon,” said company president Tom Brugato.

He said May 14 that the company was gearing up to start the first shipments through USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program on May 16.

“As you scale up, our goal is to get as many boxes out in week one as we possibly can,” he said. “You can hit snags as we get close to Memorial Day weekend, but we’re going to try to shoot for the moon.

Brugato said the company aims to ship about 800,000 25-pound for the six-week contract. The company got USDA approval for $7.3 million in fresh produce boxes, $8.1 million in dairy boxes and $9.45 million in produce/dairy combo boxes.

Brugato said Pacific Coast Fruit isn’t in this alone.

Charlie’s Produce (owed by Triple B Corporation, BB #:128220 Seattle, WA) submitted a big to USDA but wasn’t chosen. As soon as Pacific Coast heard, Brugato said, the two companies agreed to partner for the contract.

Pacific also has a dairy industry partner, where it will pack the dairy boxes, and then at Pacific’s and Charlie’s facilities in the Seattle and Portland areas. He said the company immediately brought back 35 workers it had to let go due to the economic downturn.

Brugato said the produce boxes will contain a variety of apples, oranges, strawberries, potatoes, onions, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, celery and carrots. The company will source as much local product as possible, so that means apples, potatoes and onion this month.

Brugato said the list of charities who are partners is long and growing.

So far, in Washington, it includes:

  • Food Lifeline, Seattle WA
  • Kent School District
  • Second Harvest, Spokane WA
  • St. Vincent de Paul
  • Seattle Union Gospel Mission

In Oregon:

  • Oregon Food Bank – serving both Oregon and SW Washington
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Arch Diocese of Portland – Local church drop/pick up sites throughout the Portland Metro area
  • St. Vincent de Paul
  • Sunshine Division
  • Portland Public Schools

He said in order to get 800,000 boxes of food to hungry consumers in need, the company is working with local governments to distribute them at large facilities such as stadiums, racetracks and fairgrounds.

Brugato is optimistic that after the first six weeks, the company will have the opportunity for more bids, which would allow it to work with more Northwest growers whose crops will start to harvest later in the summer.

“This was one of the most amazing things to happen to our company,” he said, “and we will perform, and most importantly, feed people.”

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services