Soup To Nutz

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Hurricane Sandy may have forced the Mid Atlantic Food Trade Organization (MAFTO) to postpone the annual dinner dance this year honoring Christopher Michael of AWI, but more than 400 industry notables found their way back to Atlantic City the weekend of March 15 to celebrate. The weekend was full of food, dancing, gambling, singing (more about that in a minute) and camaraderie. For those of you who are new to our publication, MAFTO is a food industry trade organization, the result of many mergers over the years, that raises money to give it away in many ways, including college scholarships, needy children and industry members in dire straits. Membership is free in 2013 so you are invited to register at www.mafto.org and join in the fun. Speaking of fun, the Friday night dance party at this year’s dinner dance weekend featured some former closet singers in the food biz. Dietz and Watson’s Steve Riley and Herr Foods’ Ray Nemeth made their singing debut to rousing applause. Of course Mark Tarzwell, Ahold USA, made his annual appearance crooning his favorite tunes. This year’s breakout performer was Jay Gordon of Sales Management Partners, who as it turns out isn’t new to performing at all. Jay has been acting and singing since he was about six years old, performing on “The Children’s Hour” back in the day. His parents gave him acting lessons and he subsequently participated in many school shows and glee clubs. Jay and his friends formed a doo-wop group called the Jennels in 1964. Danny of Danny and the Juniors made them an offer to sign the group to a recording contract, but the Vietnam War intervened. His friends were drafted and the group disbanded. Jay continued to sing in doo-wop shows but his dad, Sam Gordon, persuaded (read insisted) that he join the family business. His love of music has never waned and as he enters his 50th year in the brokerage business he still performs when he can. So, Jay, I hope to hear you at many more MAFTO events. You were really terrific!

Last month I wrote about passion in the food industry. I wasn’t sure if I would hear about it again any time soon, but at the New Jersey Food Council’s (NJFC) Night of Distinction Awards Ceremony honoring Louis Scaduto Jr. of Food Circus Supermarkets, Jason Ravitz of Ravitz Family Markets and Michael Rothwell of Pennington Quality Market, I was left speechless by the emotion and passion with which each awardee spoke. With more than 430 in attendance, these three men spoke from the heart about their experiences in the supermarket business. Phil Scaduto introduced his brother Louis, telling the crowd, “set goals and follow your passion, that’s what Lou does.” Lou spoke sincerely about how Hurricane Sandy affected their business. They were shut down for 17 days and people and customers came from everywhere to help them get back into business. The brothers are the third generation of their family to operate supermarkets with the fourth generation coming up behind them. Joe Sheridan, CEO of Wakefern, introduced Jason, who at 41 years of age is part of that fourth generation of Ravitzes to be in the business. Joe introduced Jason as the first of 70 “Simbas” (as they call the next generation of Wakefern members) to be honored by the NJFC. Jason, in turn, thanked everyone, and dedicated his award to his grandfather, Stanley, a man who was truly loved by his customers and “who taught me how to be a merchant and how to sell anything.” Mike was introduced by his father, Larry Rothwell, who was so proud to tell Mike’s story. He graduated from Saint Joe’s in 1978 and went with P&G after graduation until 1990 when he made the choice to enter the family business. Mike told us that the supermarket business is a “great business to be in” and that the passion and love for the business came from his father’s love for the business. All three men are more than active in their respective communities and with NJFC. They give back for all that they have been given and take none of it for granted.

A tip of the hat to the generous customers of Giant/Carlisle and Martin’s, who recently donated $587,545 at the checkout to support local hunger relief efforts through the grocers’ Bag Hunger campaign, the first of two in-store Bag Hunger campaigns the retailer conducts annually; the second will coincide with September’s Hunger Action Month. “Hunger is a reality for far too many, affecting 1 in 6 Americans,” said Rick Herring, president. “We are thankful for the generosity of our customers, associates and vendors who donated to our recent Bag Hunger campaign. Together we can fight hunger in our local communities and assist our local neighbors in providing them with a nutritious meal.” Major recipient food banks in our area include the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, Philabundance, Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley, Greater Berks County Food Bank, and the Water Street Rescue Mission in Lancaster. In 2012, hunger relief efforts and donations to regional food banks accounted for approximately 40 percent of the Giant/Carlisle division’s community giving with nearly 100 regional food banks and local pantries receiving $10 million in product, customer, vendor, and corporate donations. Kudos to Laura Williams, SVP and deputy genera counsel at Ahold USA, who was named an award recipient in the 2013 Women of Influence Awards by Central Penn Business Journal. Williams was selected as one of the top nominees by judges for her leadership and achievements within AholdUSA, as well as her contributions to the community. As an award winner, Williams will be recognized at an event on Monday, May 13 at the Hilton Harrisburg.