Major Primary Industries Award Recognises Rapid Response To Feed The Hungry And Support Growers During Lockdown

7 July 2022

Major Primary Industries Award Recognises Rapid Response To Feed The Hungry And Support Growers During Lockdown

United Fresh New Zealand Incorporated have been presented the Primary Industries NZ Summit Team Award for their work delivering 300,000 boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables to whānau during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

The management team of five were responsible for the development of the Fruit and Vegetable Box Project, a clever adaption of existing relationships and supply networks to address food shortages and provide an outlet for fresh produce that had been destined for restaurants, tourism outlets, cruise ships and airline catering.

United Fresh General Manager, Paula Dudley, says the award is a recognition of the whole supply chain.

“We’re absolutely thrilled with this award. It’s testament to the long-term relationships between United Fresh members and the professionalism of the food distribution centres that we worked alongside,” she says.

The Fruit and Vegetable Box Project was an adaption of United Fresh’s Ministry of Health-funded initiative, Fruit & Vegetables in Schools (FIS).

“Heading into lockdown, we knew that school closures meant the fruit and vegetables destined for FIS could not be delivered. This amounted to over 120,000 tamariki potentially missing out on vital nutrition every day,” says Dudley.

“With approval from the Ministry of Health to redirect existing funding, we presented a proposal to the Ministry for Primary Industries for further assistance and liaised with United Fresh member, Foodstuffs, to secure a donation of 700 boxes of fruit and vegetables.

“We then used our existing supply chain relationships to send over 10 tonnes of produce to foodbanks and City Missions throughout the lockdown periods.”

United Fresh managed to get the Fruit and Vegetable Box Project up and running less than two weeks after the initial lockdown was announced and set in place quality control systems to manage the initiative as well as a suite of financial and reporting measures, all while negotiating the challenges of a team split into two bubbles for safety.

“We’ve set up projects of this size before, but not under such extreme circumstances. It’s only the years of teamwork within our small group and alongside our members that enabled us to respond so quickly,” says Dudley.

“The Primary Industries award consolidates United Fresh as the leading pan-produce industry organisation, with 30 years of experience all culminating in this project. It’s a huge honour for our small team and we acknowledge the support of all our members who helped us to take care of our community.”

The Fruit and Vegetable Box Project Statistics:

  • 10 regions
  • 25 food distribution centres
  • 125 satellite organisations
  • 294,000 boxes delivered in 2020
  • 50,000 boxes delivered in 2021