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Chelan Fresh feels well prepared for food box contract

Chelan Fresh Marketing BB #:170403 Chelan, WA, sees its participation in USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program as a way of giving back.

The company applied for and received a contract in the first phase for $1,530,329, in which it plans to pack about 400,000 20-pound boxes filled with one 3-pound bag of onions, one 8-pound bag of potatoes and three 3-pound bags of apples.

“We’re not making money or losing money on it,” said Mac Riggan, Chelan Fresh’s marketing director, May 20. “We’ve been blessed, and we want to give back.”

He said the company has worked with food banks before, and they tend to get product that isn’t sold. The food box program is different.

“What’s cool about this is that food bank food usually isn’t fresh, but this program provides really fresh and high quality product,” he said.

Chelan Fresh was set up well to handle the food box program, Riggan said. It already cross-docks potatoes and onions; it has plenty of boxes; all the apples are the company’s own fruit; and considering the company does about $750 million in sales, a $1.5 million program shouldn’t be overwhelming, even in just six weeks.

“We knew we could to it,” he said. “We just have to ramp it up.”

Riggan said the company is going to make sure the food box program doesn’t disrupt normal operations, but assuming it doesn’t, it would like to bid for another contract.

So far, he said, the pandemic “hasn’t been that disruptive for us here as an essential business.”

“We just want to be fair, be honest, and things will work out.”

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services