SunTerra Produce Traders is one of the many companies awarded contracts under the Families Food Box Program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The growing, packing, and shipping operation is headquartered in Newport Beach with farming operations all over California and multiple other states. SunTerra President Steve Brazeel said that their participation in the food box program has been a great experience in meeting the needs of community members and farmers.
“Our job is to source products from farmers that are struggling to move them, pay them a fair price for it, package those, and distribute them to the food banks. Then the food banks don’t have to hire staff or bring in volunteers to repack boxes,” Brazeel noted. “So, we’re able to move massive amounts of food through the system using those channels.”
The boxes being packed and distributed feature staples such as potatoes and apples, but they also contain carrots, butternut squash, celery, lettuce, avocados, nectarines, and onions, all of which are sourced from California farmers. Sourcing, packing, and distributing the 25-lb boxes have also allowed SunTerra Produce to help the local community, with keeping workers employed at the Brawley facility.
“We’re producing about 40 truckloads a week. Through this food box program, we’re able to keep 60 to 70 people working that normally during this situation we’re in right now, these people would be out of work,” Brazeel explained. “We’re very grateful that the USDA chose us as a contracting partner and our box assembly team is receiving some of the benefits of that.”
SunTerra’s involvement in the program is being described as an all-around win for the surrounding community, as well as farmers who otherwise may not have a market for their produce. Brazeel explained that the produce in the box is not the typical foodbank fare, as boxes feature many items that are more commonly seen in traditional grocery stores. The feedback from the community has been overwhelmingly positive.
“It’s been really rewarding,” Brazeel noted. “Thanks to the USDA, to all of our foodbank partners, as well as our food box assembly teams and procurement and transportation specialists who make it all happen.”
Listen to the interview below.