WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., Nov. 3, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — As Dole Sunshine Company (DSC) continues to deliver on the Dole Promise to bring sustainable nutrition to all, today it announced the launch of the Dole Sunshine For All® Cities Program in Merced, CA – the third community to host this impactful initiative designed to bring nutrition access to those in need. To commemorate the beginning of the Sunshine For All® Cities program, Mayor Matthew Serratto has proclaimed today, November 3rd, as Sunshine for All® Day in Merced.

Merced is located within the San Joaquin Valley in California, a region known for its rich farmland and fresh crop production. While the area is responsible for producing much of the state’s agricultural bounty, Merced County’s child food insecurity rate is more than 27%  – meaning more than 1 in 4 children in the area are experiencing hunger1.

Dole Sunshine Company believes that in order to improve access to food in a way that creates a lasting effect on the community, the challenge needs to be met with comprehensive solutions. To bring Sunshine For All® Cities to fruition in Merced, DSC is partnering with the Boys & Girls Club of Merced County to serve as the program hub.

“We’re thrilled to partner with DSC to bring this program to our families,” said See Lee, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Merced County. “Having spent many years working with disenfranchised youth in the area, I’ve seen firsthand how hunger can impact the wellbeing in the short and long term. I’m excited to see the positive effect the program will have on our club and beyond.”

Mitchell Vanagten, longtime food access advocate and Executive Chef of Catering at UC Merced, will lead the kids’ culinary and nutrition education program. “Education around good nutrition as well as shopping and preparing healthy meals on a budget is a critical component to creating systemic, lasting change,” said Vanagten. “I look forward to getting in the kitchen with the Boys & Girls Club kids to instill knowledge and passion for cooking, using local ingredients paired with Dole’s wide portfolio of good-for-you packaged fruits and juices.”

As part of the initiative, the Dole Kids Cooking Camp will equip kids to navigate the challenges of food insecurity and nutrition education, with classes covering basic cooking skills, healthy recipe preparation, smart grocery shopping and meal planning tips. Beyond cooking classes, the program will eventually grow to include pop-up farmers’ markets and Good Stuff Kiosks, a system of free-standing refrigerated food kiosks to be placed at Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the country that were announced at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September.

“Leveraging our resources and partnerships to support places like Merced is at the heart of our efforts to increase access to sustainable nutrition to 1 billion people by 2025,” shared Orzse Hodi, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Americas, Dole Packaged Foods, LLC. “We look forward to seeing the program’s continued and lasting impact on communities like Merced, Baltimore and Jackson.”

The program, first introduced in Jackson, MS in 2020 followed by Baltimore, MD in 2022, has served over 30,000 families to-date with support from partners including GE Appliances, Bumble Bee Seafoods, Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation and more.

To learn more about the Dole Sunshine For All® Cities Program and its impact in Merced and beyond, visit dolesunshine.com.

About Dole Sunshine Company

The name Dole Sunshine Company is used to represent the global interests and combined efforts of Dole Asia Holdings, Dole Worldwide Packaged Foods and Dole Asia Fresh. Dole Sunshine Company is not an actual business entity and does not operate as such in any country or region. For more information on Dole Sunshine Company, please visit dolesunshine.com.

About the Dole Promise

In June 2020 Dole Asia Holdings announced The Dole Promise, with its three pillars around nutrition, sustainability, and the creation of shared value.

Better for People: Access to sustainable nutrition for 1 billion people by 2025, moving towards zero processed sugar in all Dole Packaged Foods products by 2025.

Better for Planet: Working towards zero fruit loss from Dole farms to markets by 2025, aiming for zero fossil-based plastic packaging by 2025. Working towards net zero carbon emissions in Dole operations by 2030.

Better for all Stakeholders: Dole will continue to positively impact all farmers, communities and people working for Dole – through its commitment to equal opportunity, living wages, and an ever-increasing level of safety, nutrition, and wellbeing. The company also seeks to advance human rights within the direct operations and supply chains by building a culture of transparency and accountability. The company also aims for a 50% increase in the value of its business by 2025.

About Boys & Girls Clubs Merced

The Boys & Girls Club of Merced County is part of one the largest and most impactful community organizations  across America. We set out to serve youth, their families, and communities through evidence-based youth development programs. We are a non-profit organization that is working hard to fill in the gaps for our youth and it is our goal that every child graduates high school ready for opportunities in the workforce, vocational trade, post-secondary education, and/or the military.

About Chef Mitchell Vanagten

Chef Mitchell Vanagten began his culinary career in the Bay Area as an ACF apprentice at the prestigious Menlo Circus Club, where he worked his way up to sous chef. He then further refined his skills at Sharon Heights Country Club in Palo Alto, and eventually took on his first Executive Chef role at ALZA Pharmaceuticals. He has been the Executive Chef Lakeside Catering at UC Merced since 2005. With an extensive knowledge of international cuisine, and ‘farm to table’ cooking, Chef Mitch is often called on for his expertise and volunteers for philanthropic causes both on campus and in the Merced community. The main focus of his efforts are hunger relief, healthy eating education, and local sustainable agriculture. 

[1] Merced County Food Bank

SOURCE Dole Sunshine Company