Beyond Risk Reduction: Designing a Comprehensive Certification Program for Gerber Food Products (Year 2 Funding)
The tasks and accompanying milestones for the second year of funding for this project are a grouping of separate, but related activities, each necessary for moving food processors forward in the process of implementing a company-wide comprehensive certification program. This program was initially designed for Gerber Food Products Company, but now serves as a template for other food companies in the Midwestern United States and nationwide. Funds from AFT were also used to write comprehensive Standard Operating Procedures for the writing of standards and data collection, convening Crop Advisory Committees, and conducting peer and board review.
Project goals and objectives
The tasks involved with this grant were to --
Task 1: Develop Company Plan for Gerber Food Products.
Task 2: Develop a Customized Certification Program for Gerber.
Task 3: Grower Outreach.
Task 4: Identify Practices/Standards Development: Sweet Potatoes.
Task 5: Develop Standard Operating Procedures.
Task 1: Develop Company Plan for Gerber Food Products. A company plan that established a company-wide agricultural environmental stewardship mission statement and principals of agricultural environmental stewardship was presented to Gerber. After several years of collaboration, however, a decision was made by Gerber to end the Protected Harvest project. The primary reason was drastic budget cuts within the company. Company officials assured Protected Harvest that the decision to close the project was not based on Protected Harvest actions. The company plan that was developed will serve as a template for other food companies in the Midwestern United States that are interested in certifying their processed food products to sustainable production standards.
Task 2: Customize Certification Program: Protected Harvest developed for Gerber a customized in-field inspection program and chain-of-custody procedures. A certification manual outlines procedures for submitting applications, performing self assessment, scheduling and conducting field inspections, verifying compliance with standards, confidentiality, and all other procedures pertaining to the certification process. Several policies were written to specifically address sourcing issues faced by processing companies that deal with multiple suppliers and crops. These policies will serve as a template for other food companies that apply to Protected Harvest for certification.
Protected Harvest hired consulting firm Integrated Technology to create a customized database to manage the certification process, and to allow Protected Harvest to interpret the data that is collected. This database will be integral to all Protected Harvest certification programs, nationwide. The development of the database is nearly complete, and will go into use in the summer of 2006.
Task 3: Grower Outreach: Protected Harvest developed a grower-newsletter and industry newsletter, which was distributed to over 500 people and organizations, including prospective and current participants in the Protected Harvest certification program throughout the Midwest and nationwide. The primary purpose of the newsletter was to build long-term grower buy-in into the program. Articles included success stories about risk-reduction and eco-labeling, and Protected Harvest programs nationwide. Initially, the grower newsletter was going to be printed and distributed through the mail, but it was determined to be more cost and time efficient to distribute an email newsletter.
Task 4: Identify Practices/Standards Development: Sweet Potatoes: Protected Harvest participated on the Gerber Crop Advisory Committee (CAC) to develop a production standard for sweet potatoes. A standard was developed requiring, prohibiting, and/or assigning points to each of the production practices.
Task 5: Standard Operating Procedures: Protected Harvest wrote comprehensive Standard Operating Procedures for the writing of standards, data collection, convening Crop Advisory Committees, and conducting peer and board review. These S.O.P.s will become the basis for applying for ISO-65 Certification.