On Wednesday, November 28, 2012 a vision and dream of mine officially became a reality!  Find Your Favorite™ is a program that connects fruits and vegetables to people who represent the interests and dreams of our youth.  Through the help of heroes like Coby Fleener, Tamika Catchings, Emily Dyson & Gus Chavez, we are glamorizing healthy choices.  Find Your Favorite will encourage schoolchildren and their families to explore the abundant, seasonal offerings of fruits and vegetables.  Furthermore, with the help of the industry vendors & partners of Indianapolis Fruit Company, Find Your Favorite will support these students & families in finding their favorites through educational materials, grocery offers and coupons.  This launch is hands-down the most monumental moment of my professional life.

Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) reached out to me on August 17, 2012.  They asked me to source some signage & posters for their school cafeterias.  Most of the growers, shippers & commissions have some form of educational materials available for school settings.  Working in the distribution stage of the supply chain puts me 1 step closer to these guys than the retailers & food service professionals.  So I was quick to answer: “Yes, no problem.  I can get you posters.”

I toured Indianapolis Public Schools Foodservice Division for the first time on September 5, 2012. The relationship between Indianapolis Public Schools and Indy Fruit is long-standing.  They are just one of our many valued customers.  Their foodservice building also happens to be within a stone’s throw of our warehouse, so it’s pretty easy to arrange visits & stay in close communication.  After visiting their facility, I was incredibly inspired & beyond impressed!  Their dedication to food safety & nutritional offerings is without doubt leading the way in the arena of school cafeterias.  You will not find sodas, cookies, creamy soups, white bread, etc. being served at IPS.  Rather, each & every item that is offered at Indiana’s most diverse & populous school district met the nutritional standards & guidelines set by the USDA.  We’re talking whole grains, lean proteins, lots of fruits & vegetable and sodium & caloric restrictions.  I’ve been in this industry for over 7 years…. I’ve visited countless customers & I have never been so impressed.  The dedication at IPS to fresh, healthy offerings & strict food safety regulations are directly parallel to our standards at Indianapolis Fruit.   Congratulations to our valued partner & please… keep up the good work!

So, as I was touring these cafeterias on September 5th, I kept a watchful eye out to see what kind of produce signage was available to students.  In all honestly, it was pretty pathetic.  It wasn’t that the posters had bad information, most of them were very informative.  It was the way in which this information was being delivered!  You simply cannot hang a poster of an apple figure flexing its imaginary muscles next to Justin Bieber with a milk mustache & expect any 12 year old to take notice.  Shoot, I’m 31 & obsessed with produce… and I don’t think if I would take notice!  (gotta love the Biebs)  Our industry’s marketing to children was playing 2nd fiddle to the Dairy Association’s.  And considering the wholesome qualities & vast offerings of fruits and vegetables, I felt it was time to put produce in the spotlight!

A school food service program was actually a vision & goal of The Produce Mom from the beginning.  In a brainstorming session with one of my advisors at Indy Fruit, the name “Find Your Favorite” was agreed upon for this initiative.  During that brand-building session on July 27, 2012, I purchased FindYourFavorite.com, .org, .net, etc.  And it was essentially “go time” for this dream and vision.  We started drafting the letters seeking celebrity participation & Indianapolis Public Schools’ participation.  I also started making my “celebrity participant wish list”  It was important to all of us to not limit this celebrity pool to athletes.  It’s easy to associate athletics with wellness campaigns, but this program is about inspiring kids.  Lots of kids have no inspiration whatsoever from a football player.  As a matter of fact, lots of kids hate sports.  So the multi-cultural & diverse pool of Find Your Favorite Heroes became one of my top priorities.  In an early planning session, I said, “I’m going to aim for 12 Heroes.  And if we get 5 we will still do it.”

The 1st hero to commit was Indy Car driver Graham Rahal, then the local Mascots, the Indiana Fever & Pacers committed their 2 superstars, then our dancer came on-board, IMPD & IFD committed & the next thing I knew… we had Dwight Freeney- one of the most celebrated players in the NFL joining forces with us!  When it was all said & done, we had 17 iconic individuals committed as Find Your Favorite Heroes within a 3-week time frame.   These people were quick to praise the program & welcome the opportunity.  No one was paid to be a Find Your Favorite Hero.  My awesome workplace named me a Hero, so Find Your Favorite launched last week with a pool of 18 Heroes, all promoting a different fruit or vegetable.  It just brings tears to my eyes as I recount this all… I still cannot believe that we did it, but at the same time, I’ve never worked so hard for anything.

Please explore the website.  Please enjoy the pictures from our launch & Media Day celebration.  Please ask me questions if you have any.  Now our efforts shift to helping the IPS community understand the affordability of fresh produce and empowering them with continual coupon offers & educational materials from Indy Fruit vendor partners.  A very exciting and inspiring part of Find Your Favorite are the Hero Posters & Videos, but it certainly doesn’t stop there.  In many ways, our work is just beginning.

Thank you for the opportunity to have this voice!  All the followers continue to make The Produce Mom relevant.  When I was telling the “Find Your Favorite” story and recounting the quick growth of The Produce Mom to my grape hero, Indiana Pacer forward Paul George… he said it best: “You’re a perfect example of one of my favorite sayings… Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon!”

Amen.  Time to get back to work!

xoxo Produce Mom

 

 

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