Sara Langen

New fitness and nutrition non-profit debuts
The food and beverage industry and related organizations have launched a new non-profit council charged with getting practical information into the hands of parents, teachers, communities, and policymakers about effective solutions for tackling obesity.

The American Council for Fitness and Nutrition (ACFN) will advocate realistic solutions to improve the health of all Americans, particularly youth. It will also address obesity in America with comprehensive, constructive public policies based on sound science and behavioral research.

The council was founded by a broad coalition of food and beverage companies, trade associations, and related industries and associations, including the American Bakers Association, American Meat Institute, Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., ConAgra Foods Inc., Del Monte Foods, Food Marketing Institute, General Mills Inc., Grocery Manufacturers of America, Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods Inc., McDonald’s Corp., National Confectioners Association, National Restaurant Association, Nestle USA Inc., Pepsi-Cola Co., Sara Lee Corp., Procter & Gamble Co., Quaker Oats Co., and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The new council supports increasing the number of students who engage in physical activity for 30 minutes a day in schools, as well as increasing effective nutrition education in schools and increasing support for applied research on achieving behavior changes to support fitness and nutrition education goals.

“The council’s goal is to help Americans, especially children and parents, develop eating and exercise habits that lead to a balanced and healthier lifestyle,” Council Spokesperson and Registered Dietitian Alison Kretser said. “We will work with leading health, nutrition, fitness, and behavioral experts to help Americans set achievable goals for lifetime health.”

The member companies and organizations hope drawing on their collective resources will produce a greater impact than any single organization.

ACFN launched a Web site, www.acfn.org, that includes tips for consumers and links to sources for nutrition and fitness information. The organization also plans outreach programs to policy makers and media, as well as “listening tours” around the country.

ACFN is based in Washington, D.C.

Father of food banking honored 
St. Mary’s Food Bank (SMFB) in Phoenix, Ariz., honored its founder, John van Hengel, the father of food banking, on February 21 to celebrate his 80th birthday.

Van Hengel started SMFB, the world’s first food bank, in 1967. He based the organization on a simple concept—some people are hungry, while others have an abundance of food. Why not build a bridge between the two?

After learning that local grocers often dumped food nearing expiration, he asked the pastor of his church, St. Mary’s, to help establish a central location where agencies could pick up food he gathered throughout the city. Within three days, van Hengel had an abandoned building and a $3,000 loan from the parish council.

The volunteer staff at the food bank received and distributed 250,000 pounds of food that first year. They were able to repay the loan from St. Mary’s, and named their organization St. Mary’s Food Bank in thanks for the parish’s help. Today, SMFB, a private nonprofit, nonsectarian food bank, distributes more than 25 million pounds of food per year.

Van Hengel went on to serve as a consultant to other food banks, first independently and then through the organization he created, Second Harvest. Today America’s Second Harvest is the largest domestic hunger relief organization in the country, and thousands of food banks exist around the world. Van Hengel is still an active participant in worldwide food banking and a vital part of SMFB.

To honor van Hengel, SMFB hosted a celebration and open house, inviting the community to wish him happy birthday and tour the food bank. The City of Phoenix Police Dept. hosted a food drive in his honor as well. SMFB also asked the public to honor van Hengel by holding their own food drives, making donations, volunteering at food banks, or sending a special message to him by signing an on-line guestbook at www.smfb.org.

2002’s best new products recognized 
Productscan Online named three domestic and two international food industry-related products winners of its 2002 “Build a Better Mousetrap” New Product Innovations award.

The on-line database of new products (www.productscan.com) is part of the Marketing Intelligence Service, based in Naples, N.Y.

In the domestic category, 10 products, three of which were food related, were chosen from 30,000 new U.S. and Canadian introductions. Weston Bakeries, based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, won for its Country Harvest The Better Half Bread, a sliced loaf of bread that is half Harvest White and half Stone Milled Whole Wheat bread. The product solves the problem of some family members wanting white bread and some preferring wheat. Instead of buying two loaves that end up only half eaten, consumers can purchase one loaf that pleases everyone. The bread bag also opens at both ends, so consumers can easily retrieve the desired slices.

Uncle Ben’s, based in Vernon, Calif., was recognized for its Uncle Ben’s Frozen Breakfast Bowls, which allow consumers to enjoy hot breakfasts when time is limited. The portable, disposable plastic bowls contain traditional breakfast favorites, such as Bacon, Egg & Potatoes, as well as more unique offerings, such as Peach & Pecan Pancakes.

Reynolds Consumer Products, based in Richmond, Va., won for its Reynolds Wrap Release Non-Stick Aluminum Foil, which solves the problem of foods that stick to foil. One side of the product has a non-stick side so foods slide off. It also works in the freezer to prevent foods from sticking together, so consumers don’t have to pry frozen foods apart.

Two food products were also recognized in the international market. France’s Tranches de Vie! Pate Prete a Cuire is a pre-made bread dough sold in a metal aerosol can that is sprayed into a baking pan, a new idea for bread dough. Germany’s Milka Schokus Pokus Chocolate Bar starts out with a chocolate flavor that changes to strawberry and ends with a peppermint taste.

by SARA LANGEN
Assistant Editor