If you follow me on Instagram and happened to see some of my Instagram stories from this past weekend, you might have noticed I was a. without toddlers for 2 days and b. wasn’t in Kansas [aka Michigan] anymore. Yep, I was hundreds of miles away from home [Tampa, FL to be exact], attending the Southeastern Produce Council annual meeting- i.e. Southern Exposure. Once a year, retailers, foodservice operators, produce-focused organizations, farmers, and more come together to share the latest and greatest trends and products in the produce industry at Southern Exposure, and there I was right in the middle of all the action, attending on behalf of Produce for Kids [PFK]. As the official registered dietitian for PFK, it was not only a time to meet and greet and thank those funding my position and PFK campaigns, but Southern Exposure was a time to learn and bond with the PFK team I interact with on a weekly basis through email and social media.
Let me tell you about my role with PFK: I write, analyze recipes, and provide nutrition communications guidance when it comes to the resources PFK provides. Little did I realize the relationships and impact PFK has not only in the produce industry but as a cause-marketing organization as a whole. After hearing many thank-yous from stakeholders and testimonies from individuals and organizations benefiting from the many campaigns and resources PFK provides, I felt an extreme amount of pride being one VERY small part of this small but mighty team.
Despite my extended plane time at the airport in Detroit due to a snowstorm that happened RIGHT BEFORE my flight was about to takeoff, the trip to Tampa, the sessions I attended at Southern Exposure, and the time spent with the PFK team was beyond amazing. I mean what Michigander wouldn’t love a trip to Tampa in March?! What Mom wouldn’t love a night of uninterrupted sleep IN A HOTEL?! And what registered dietitian wouldn’t love attending a conference focused solely on the health, variety, and trends associated with FRUITS AND VEGGIES. You get the picture!
From an educational session on top produce trends, a panel discussion including traditional retailers vs. meal delivery systems and ending with a Q&A session with the CEO of Whole Foods, my thinking cap never came off. Sometimes I forget I have a brain that’s not just focused on naps and feeding schedules.
My experience at Southern Exposure ended with the trade show, the place where you could see and taste firsthand those trends and new products in the fruit and veggie world. If I could describe the top trends and/or products in just three words, it would be fresh, organic, and meal kits. Consumers like you and me want fresh produce that lasts, organic at a reasonable price point, and yes, the convenience of having everything packaged in one! Ok not all of us want these things, but these were three big takeaways from both the sessions and expo floor.
I can’t tell you the next time I’ll be traveling for work, or when I’ll get to see my PFK family again [perhaps next year at Southern Exposure?!], but I can tell you this two-day trip was good for my soul, brain, and my family back home!