At one of the dinners at this year’s Southeast Produce Council's Southern Exposure, I found myself sitting next to the Managing Director of Produce for Kids, Amanda Keefer. While we caught up on life and work, we went from fork-in-hand to cause-in-hand. I had not had anyone ask me in a very long time what cause I was passionate about, and as the wheels turned, I realized that potentially more people haven’t been asked as well. So, I decided to ask Amanda a few questions to spark the conversation, once again.
Jordan Okumura: What inspires you to rally the industry around providing better and more fresh produce solutions for kids? Or rather, what is at the heart of the matter?
Amanda Keefer: The produce industry is truly in a unique position when it comes to marketing and selling our products. There’s no question about it, consuming fruits and vegetables will only do great things for our health and the health of future generations. The groundwork is already set. It’s up to us to provide solutions for the families of today. It’s up to us to offer resources like education, origin stories, and inspiration. It’s up to us to invest in reaching and marketing to families and our future generations. It’s not enough just to grow a quality product and get it in the store. We must complete the circle by connecting with the end consumer.
JO: You speak often about cause marketing. Why do you think, in addition to a company, individuals should find causes that have meaning to them?
AK: Everyone should have a cause! It is up to us as a society to leave this world better than when we arrived. Our lives can get busy and it’s easy to check off the list of to-dos, feel successful and live life. It’s easy to get caught up in our routine and forget to think about what we are doing to make a difference. There are many ways, big and small, to make an impact. I think sometimes people think it’s going to take a lot of time, energy and money to have a cause, but your cause could be as small as making changes in your own routine. There’s no reason a business shouldn’t have a cause. With the rise of cause marketing, it’s a no-brainer to elevate your brand, drive sales, and give back. Everyone wins.
JO: It may seem silly to ask the Managing Director for PFK what her cause is, but in line with what you do with PFK, what is another cause close to your heart?
AK:I am extremely passionate about educating families on how to make healthier life decisions and hopefully avoid having to deal with health issues down the road. Currently, I’m the host of The Healthy Family Project, a podcast that focuses in on topics around a healthy family as a whole. We talk about everything from mental health topics like test-taking anxiety and body image to exercising as a family, meal planning, and easy ways to add fruits and vegetables to add to your day. If the education is there, we can avoid health care issues (and expenses) down the road by taking care of ourselves. Everyone wants to be healthy, it’s just offering the tools and resources to those who may not understand how to be healthy.
In my role with the Southeast Produce Council’s SEPC Cares, I’ve been able to help implement the Healthy Lifestyles Program at Arnold Palmer here in Orlando, Florida. Directed toward children and families who are at risk for obesity or have an elevated body mass index (BMI), this program concentrates on evaluating and managing the medical complications that correlate with obesity. The unique thing about this program is that it’s not just the child (the patient) who attends; it’s the entire family. It is really magical to watch these families learn together and complete the program with a new sense of confidence about living a healthy lifestyle. Most times, parents are unable to guide their children because they don’t know how to take the first step themselves.
JO: How are you hoping the "What’s your cause?" message will impact today's produce industry?
AK: When our team started talking about “What’s Your Cause,”we thought that simply asking this question could spawn a trail of good. Whether a company chooses to work with Produce for Kids on a cause marketing campaign or not, we truly just wanted to spark thought in our industry and encourage everyone to ask themselves and their organizations this question. Think of the impact we could make if we all identified a cause and worked to support that cause.
JO: What is your background? How did you find your way to PFK?
AK: Oh boy. Do you have a few hours? I spent several years at the Kennedy Space Center in public relations and then moved on to an advertising and public relations agency specializing in travel and leisure clients. I was lucky to be part of the tail end of the Shuttle program at KSC and travel the world in my role at the agency. When I was pregnant with my second child, I remember thinking, if I devoted my talents to a cause during eight working hours a day, I could really make a difference in this world over the course of my career. Think about it, around 260 working days per year at eight hours a day…. Around 2,000 hours per year and 60,000 hours over a 30-year career! At that time I came across a job post for Produce for Kids on the local Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) website and was scared to death to apply. I’d been in the travel industry for nine years and didn’t know a lick about grocery or any more about produce other than I enjoyed eating fruits and vegetables and grew up with a garden. Something in my gut told me to take the leap and now Ican’t imagine leaving the produce industry.
To wrap up...As a passionate lover of the English language here at The Snack Magazine, AndNowUKnow, and in my projects outside of work, I am passionate about many things, and yep, you guessed it – writing is one of them. This lead me down a rabbit hole of questions in which I asked myself what has helped to make me who I am? For me, it was access to books and the arts—which if without, I may not have found my career and my outlet for engaging with the world.
So what can I do? Well, that is the question I will be pondering as I move forward. And now I ask you, what’s your cause?