Generic promotional campaigns for fresh produce – plenty have tried, a few have succeeded to some degree, most have failed. I’ve written plenty of columns over the years about them as they ebbed and flowed – my colleague Jim Prevor even more. While neither of us is intrinsically against the idea of a generic campaign, history tells us (and probably you too) that most are some combination of well-meaning, yet ultimately ill-conceived, ambitious, yet doomed from the outset to fall short of their targets, or unambitious and uninspiring and therefore unable to get out of the starting blocks. There is always a variety of options when the blame game starts and also a lot of reasons why companies can justify their lack of involvement in campaigns that they don’t feel will benefit them, or at least could benefit others too to their detriment. But this column isn’t about the pros and cons of generic campaigns – that’s been written many times before.
While admittedly I may have missed something somewhere in the world along my merry way, in Chicago last month, I saw for the first time an attempt to circumnavigate the corporate funding route and boil the responsibility down to an individual level. It came in the form of a direct appeal to individuals working in the industry to put their hands in their pockets and support a cause that essentially is aiming to underpin their future careers.
The United Fresh Start Foundation (UFSF) has one simple objective – to increase the access children have to fresh fruit and vegetables in the US. Its Growing Up Fresh initiative is not eschewing the traditional method of soliciting companies for donations, but it has also taken a different route and instead focused on asking for the personal support of people across the sector. The UFSF’s movement has already achieved a significant amount – for example, when this film was produced earlier this year, more than 4,100 salad bars have been donated to schools across the US, with the industry-supported Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools project reaching an estimated 3.1 million children. It also gained the support of First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been a valuable advocate of healthy eating for children during her time in the White House. The positive publicity she has generated will have helped the cause along and the work has moved outside of schools too.
Setting the bar low
The industry has supported it, but with an incredible one third of children in the US now classified as obese or overweight, more is evidently needed. So through the donation page on the foundation’s website, individuals can make monthly contributions of as little as $10 to the cause. Larger denominations are available of course – but to set the bar so low is a sensible move in these straitened times for so many.
While I admittedly haven’t donated to this particular project myself, I most certainly would if there was such an initiative in the UK. I like it. It appeals to my sense of there being a real fresh produce community out there and I believe that we all have an element of responsibility to support the industry that supports us in some way, as well as contributing to a drive to encourage children to eat more healthily.
The latest ill-fated generic campaign to hit the buffers in the UK was Eat In Colour – purely due to a lack of funding. If even a small percentage of this industry was prepared to buy into the Growing Up Fresh method of fundraising – £10 a month from just 1,000 people would raise £120,000 in a year – then we’d be on the way to being able to resurrect a concept that was popular and accessible, and has already had its groundwork laid.
For many directors sat around their board table, backing a generic promotion gets caught somewhere between the stalls of hard-nosed commercial reality and holistic idealism. As individuals, we have no such barriers. We can choose our own destinies and be selective where we put our money. Of course there will be plenty of people who feel something like this is outside of their remit, or that it doesn’t fit within their budget, but for the rest of us, why not get behind a campaign that benefits not only your industry, but society as a whole?
Just imagine if 3,000 or 5,000 people joined the intra-industry crowdfunding bandwagon – momentum like that is hard to ignore and let’s face it, the industry could do with some concerted noise to rally behind.