Todd Haymore, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), has appealed to all people in the state to support Virginia’s peanut industry which has been hit hard by a drop in consumption due to the recall of peanut products from a manufacturer in Georgia.
“I can’t stress enough,” said Haymore, “that Virginia peanuts have not been implicated in the recall of products made from peanut paste. Even though most Virginia peanuts go into shelled or in-shell nuts and specialty products, the decline in consumption of peanut butter has hurt the industry, too.”
That drop in consumption has taken another toll. Virginia’s food banks depend on peanut butter as a staple for their clients. Not only is peanut butter an excellent source of protein and minerals, it requires no refrigeration or cooking so it is user-friendly for young children and the elderly.
To help support Virginia’s peanut industry and its food banks, VDACS is calling on people throughout the state to donate peanut butter to the food banks. The agency has set up collection sites where people can drop off their jars, or they may deliver donations directly to their local food banks.
The Virginia Peanut Growers Association (VPGA) has already begun a campaign among its members and the Virginia peanut industry to provide peanut butter for Virginia’s food banks. At its February meeting, the VPGA took up a collection among members to donate to food banks.
“I talked with the Food Bank in Norfolk,” reported Dell Cotton, executive director of the VPGA. “They said they could use cash to leverage a deal with a grocery chain to get the best price on peanut butter. Our stipulation is that the money can only be used to purchase peanut butter and that it must be from U.S. grown peanuts.”
The collection is on-going, but already people have donated more than $2,000 to purchase peanut butter. The Association hopes to collect enough to donate to every food bank in Virginia.
Leslie Van Horn, Executive Director of the Federation of Virginia Food Banks, says the number of individuals they serve throughout Virginia continues to grow, and food banks constantly need protein items such as peanut butter.
“With the recent recall of peanut products,” she said, “now, more than ever, we are looking for communities throughout the state to donate jars of peanut butter so we can continue to offer it to those in need.” She reiterates that jars of peanut butter were never part of the recall.
Commissioner Haymore noted that most people are aware of the sterling reputation of Virginia peanuts. “They are the Cadillac of the brand and an important part of the state’s largest industry, agriculture,” he said. “Last year we grew approximately 24,000 acres of peanuts with a cash value of more than $13 million.
“On March 16, we are holding a peanut summit for industry members and specialty food producers. We plan to discuss the dramatic drop in sales caused by the ongoing scare regarding salmonella and develop an action plan to restore peanuts to their proper place in the diets of our consumers.
“Between now and then, consumers can help the food banks and the peanut industry by donating jars of peanut butter to their local and regional food banks.”
For more information on food banks in each area of the state, visit http://www.vafoodbanks.org/  or call the Federation in Norfolk at 757-314-4572 .