Maria Lopez of Tat-On, Inc., Mike Deusebio of C&S Wholesale, and Cindy Jewell of California Giant Berry Farms look to 6th Annual Tour de Fresh
- by Melissa De Leon
ANAHEIM, CA - My only regret when it comes to the Tour de Fresh is that I didn’t get to be on the very first ride. This year, I get to make up for a bit of lost time as the event returns to its inaugural route from Monterey to Anaheim, California, finishing up just in time for PMA Fresh Summit on October 16.
During my first year, and the ride’s second, I met Maria Lopez, Tat-On, Inc.’s Director of Sales, California, and Mike Deusebio, Senior Director West Coast Produce Operations at C&S Wholesale Grocers.
“My passion for my child and the health of all children was the initial emotional incentive for me to get involved in Tour de Fresh,” Maria shared when I asked how her route started.
For Mike, I could tell when I first met him that he is a cyclist. I asked him what he would relay to himself if he could go back to that first ride.
“Look around!” he said. “Year one, I was so focused on going fast, I never really enjoyed the view. Also, I wouldn't wait till the last minute to use the restroom on Day One. I missed the start, there was absolutely no one left, and I had to be paced back up to the group by our head mechanic, Roger, in the mechanic's car!”
To be fair, role call is one of the many aspects that have been enhanced since the Tour de Fresh kicked off in October, 2014.
“It’s much more organized, much more thorough than the first year. I think the organizing team has learned a lot over the past five years. Take for instance finishing the ride each day at the hotel. That's a big plus. You can ride as fast or as slow as you want without worrying about holding anyone up,” Mike said when speaking to how the ride has changed. And in the spirit of this, and his new resolve to stop and enjoy the view, he said, “I may stop for a wine tasting in SLO (San Luis Obispo) on Day Two!”
This year in particular, I think all the riders are going to be really excited to discover they have a personal TdF food truck.
Also improving are the tactics to fundraise for the ride’s purpose. Cindy Jewell, Vice President of Marketing for California Giant Berry Farms and one of the creators of Tour de Fresh, shared that the program is providing incentives to riders that are a little extra enthusiastic about fundraising, giving a special surprise gift at the kick off dinner for anyone that raises double the fundraising goal of $7,000.
Some are on their way to doubling this, if they haven’t already. Check out the race to raise here, and when you stop by you can also choose to donate to a rider’s cause!
Another way for you to get involved is by attending the Finish Line Ceremony, and this year it looks like the ride is closing out with a real bang.
“We are working closely with PMA this year to make the finish line quite grand as the riders will roll onto the promenade leading into the convention center,” Cindy said. “PMA is creating a finish line stage, banners, seating, and more for us so when riders pull in, there is an opportunity to welcome them in style.”
Aside from achieving the ultimate goal to put a salad bar in every school in America, this is probably the biggest thing I have personally wanted for the riders as they finish a grueling now four days on the road.
The non-profit organization has successfully raised over $750,000 in five years, and it has become a known term in our industry. Now the task is to ensure all sides are involved, and get #TourdeFresh trending beyond our business to all it effects.
“In looking down the road, I see nothing but good coming from the concept of Tour de Fresh. As hard as that first ride was and as many obstacles as I had to overcome, it was worth every second of every mile to bring fresh and healthy produce to schools across the nation,” Maria leaves me with.
So don’t forget to pack a sign, a bell, or a paper to turn into a cone as you cheer your colleagues into the finish line on Wednesday, October 16, at 11:30 a.m. What better way to kick off your PMA Fresh Summit meetings than at a finish line celebration that reveals how much money was raised to create more customers for fresh produce?