When David Pearson started his Grand Rapids-based food company, Pearson Foods, in the 1970s, it was a two-person team growing bean sprouts and delivering to local accounts in a station wagon. Now the company has 200 employees and supplies customers across the Great Lakes states.
The company is large enough that Michigan-based Gordon Food Service (GFS)—which distributes to restaurants and food service operations in most of the United States and Canada—partnered with Pearson to supply it with a Michigan-grown produce line. This allowed GFS to respond to the increasing interest among its Michigan customers to buy locally grown food. Kim VanAlstine, a Pearson Sales Manager, met with the seven Chartwells-operated 10 Cents* schools recently to explain products it has available yet this winter, and what was available in the fall. Farm to Freezer also attended and shared information. Products Pearson provides include green beans, beets, carrot coins, broccoli, turnips, bok choy, shredded cabbage, winter squash, parsnips, kale, cucumber, peppers, and more. Pearson processes and packs fruits and vegetables from 31 different farms, typically 2,000 acres each, in Kent, Montcalm, Berrien, Barry, Newaygo, Lenawee, Oceana, Allegan, Van Buren, Ionia, Ottawa, Lapeer, and St. Joseph counties. “We didn’t know that half this stuff was available,” said Colleen Johnson, Chartwells Food Service Director for Muskegon Public Schools and Muskegon Heights Public Schools, who plans to spend some of her funds for a large summer program.
“If we still have funding, I will plan earlier next year. I will hit the ground running.” —Colleen Johnson, Muskegon Public Schools and Muskegon Heights Public Schools
*Michigan’s 10 Cents A Meal for School Kids & Farms is a successful state pilot that provides schools with up to 10 cents a meal in match funding to purchase and serve Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Originally a $250,000 state pilot in prosperity regions 2 and 4, lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder expanded 10 Cents A Meal for the 2017-2018 school year to also include prosperity region 9 with an increased budget of $375,000. The is one in a series of stories documenting 10 Cents A Meal for School Kids & Farms.