NEWARK, Del. -- In the never-ending quest for funding, the Produce for Better Health Foundation here may soon seek alliances and cooperative agreements with groups outside the produce industry.
That is one of the new directions Michael W. Gretz, newly-appointed executive director of the foundation, may explore to move PBH into the future.
Gretz said the foundation -- which runs the industry's only ongoing generic produce promotion program -- could seek out a wide variety of organizations to team up with.
He suggested the American Dietetic Association, the American Medical Association and the American Heart Association as the sort of allies PBH could consider as feasible.
Gretz came to the foundation with 20 years of marketing and fund raising experience. Most recently, Gretz served as vice president of marketing and development for the National Easter Seal Society, Chicago. He started with PBH last month, during its annual board meeting in Monterey, Calif.
"Through my experience, I've been able to identify various types of support and ways of getting organization support, whether it be corporations, the United Way, churches, etc.," he told SN. "A combination of marketing and diversified fund raising will work toward helping the foundation."
But, in Gretz's view, finding new sources of funding is just one part of the challenge facing the foundation. He emphasized that it is also very important for that the Produce for Better Health Foundation, and its 5 a Day for Better Health message, deliver real value to the industry groups that support it.
"I'm big on ensuring we're providing value to our member organizations," he said. "I want to be sure that we're giving back to all these 800 or 900 members -- that we have something to show for their dollars and support."
Underlying his own goals for directing the foundation is the foundation's primary objective -- to increase per capita consumption of fruits and vegetables and subsequently, produce industry sales, he said.
"First, we have to stabilize ourselves, and continue to grow a bit in terms of our support and membership, and make sure we serving our members in the way we should be serving them," he said. "Then I think we probably need to increase funding support for our group." In addition to alliances and cooperative agreements, sponsorships and grants could be a long-term option to raise money for the foundation, he said.
"I'm not convinced that's going to be a large source of fast funding, but rather something we can develop over time," he explained. "I don't think that is something that's going to get us $300,000 or $400,000 in a few months. We have to be targeted as to whom we present our credentials to."
Gretz said there may also be some opportunities to work with packaged food and beverage companies to spread the 5 a Day message. "Ideally, we would like to tap into those opportunities," he said.
During the foundation's board meeting, another option was raised: the prospect of a mandatory assessment on products as a way to gather funding for PBH's generic produce campaign, similar to the checkoff programs already in place for both the beef and dairy industries. Both programs are well established and successful from a funding standpoint.
But a checkoff program for produce? Gretz told SN that he is not comfortable with discussing the possibility of such assessments yet.
"I'm meeting with the various folks in different organizations, and just trying to get my ear to the ground," he said. "I need to know more about assessments."
fun and tasty array of fruits and vegetables that we're trying to sell, and we need to do that in a meaningful, positive way," he said. He pointed to a public service announcement the foundation is creating and plans to release this summer as one way to relay the healthy, tasty aspects of produce. During the meeting in Monterey, the board approved the creative concept for an upcoming public service announcement, which will feature animated fruit and vegetable characters. According to the association, the finished announcement will be light-hearted and memorable.
Elizabeth Pivonka, deputy executive director of the foundation, said earlier that the announcement has been one of the foundation's goals from the beginning, and it will bring "considerable" exposure to the 5 a Day message.
"I had the opportunity and good fortune to meet with a number of produce leaders out in Monterey, at our board meeting. I think we're all on the same page there, and I was positively charged by their enthusiasm and their commitment towards the foundation."