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April 28, 2020

WG President and CEO Addresses Foodservice Collapse on Fox News

Today, WG President and CEO, Dave Puglia, appeared on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom with Sandra Smith to discuss the ripple effects of the collapse of the foodservice sector on the fresh produce industry.

“The loss of the restaurant sector really threw a grenade in the middle of our food supply chain,” Puglia noted at the outset of the interview.

In the interview, Smith focused on the juxtaposition of the food waste that has resulted from the loss of the foodservice market and the increasing demand at food banks.

Puglia described an example of a WG member in the Imperial Valley he visited last week who had to plow “350 acres of very high quality romaine right back into the ground. There was literally no place to put that product.”

He followed up by stating that, “We’ve more than doubled our donations to food banks in California, and still there is so much fresh produce that is, of course, highly perishable, that doesn’t have a market.”

“These farmers really have no choice,” Puglia continued. “They spend about half of the total dollar harvesting the crop. If there’s no place to sell that crop, you can’t spend that money on harvest, you have to put in back into the ground, and it’s really tragic.”

Puglia also noted the gamble many farmers in the West are taking as they are making planting decisions now for a foodservice market that still may not exist in 90 to 120 days when these crops mature, concluding with, “And that’s why the federal government has to step in and help bridge farmers across this divide, because too many of them have already been harmed so badly economically, and more will be because of the disruption to the market.”

Click here to watch the full America’s Newsroom interview.

Puglia also addresses the collapse of the foodservice sector in a new video released on the WG COVID-19 Resources Page. In the video, Puglia is standing in a field of romaine lettuce as it is being plowed back into the ground. Against this backdrop, he calls on the federal government to do even more to help keep our farms running and ensure the future of our domestic food supply.

An estimated 40% of all produce in the U.S. is consumed in restaurants, schools, hotels and other away-from-home settings. The stay-at-home orders issued by all but five states have resulted in the complete collapse of the foodservice sector along with a critical outlet for farmers. With limited ability to quickly redirect this product to retail markets, and the limited capacity of food banks to accept large volumes of perishable fresh produce items, many farmers have been forced to plow their crops back into the ground.

Click here to watch the full video.