Spotlight gone, U.S. Foodservice abandons Huntington’s Kitchen

The spotlight is gone. And so is U.S. Foodservice’s support for healthy eating in Huntington, West Virginia.

Last year, U.S. Foodservice, one of the country’s largest food distributors, jumped at the chance to board the “good-food” bandwagon and burnish its reputation. When celebrity chef Jamie Oliver came to town, it welcomed him – and the cameras — into its warehouses and made clear it could provide fresh, healthy foods at prices the local school system could afford. Then, the company went one step further, offering one year of free food and cleaning supplies worth up to $25,000 to Huntington’s Kitchen, the cooking school that Oliver established.

“The health and success of the communities where we operate is essential to our company,” Mark Eggerding, senior vice president of U.S. Foodservice, declared at the time.

Hmmm.

The Kitchen pinched pennies in an effort to make the money last, according to its director Jill Moore. But eight months later, with about $5,000 left in the pot, U.S. Foodservice ended its financial support, citing cuts to its marketing budget. The privately held company has about $19 billion in annual revenues.

U.S. Foodservice did not return repeated calls to offices in both West Virginia and its national headquarters outside Chicago.

It’s no surprise that the marketing department fuels — and funds — corporate good deeds. But to make real change in America’s food culture, the commitment has to be about more than a marketing ploy. Soon after U.S. Foodservice made its donation, its name went up in big letters on the Kitchen’s floor-to-ceiling windows that face the sidewalk along Huntington’s Third Avenue. Now the money is gone, and the cash-strapped Kitchen has a new bill to pay: scrubbing its windows.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted February 10, 2011 at 1:11 PM | Permalink

    Boy, I’d really like to know what they were thinking here. It’s not like their brand reputation needs further damage. How does a privately-held company with $19billion in annual revenue not continue this commitment with all of it’s tangible and intangible benefits? It’s a bad PR move, in my opinion.

  2. Karen Grant
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 5:44 PM | Permalink

    I’m very sad to hear about both this setback for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution as well as the debacle in the LA Unified School district pulling him off his healthy lunch program. Hey, Whole Foods…are ya listening? Here’s your big opportunity. Seriously…

3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Edible San Francisco, Bonnie Azab Powell, grabbingtoast, Terri Dien, Michael Shafran and others. Michael Shafran said: RT @leitesculinaria: It's gotta hurt: Spotlight gone, US Foodservice abandons Jamie Oliver's Kitchen in W Virginia http://t.co/Hb7uL5M [...]

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ginarau, Gina Ruiz. Gina Ruiz said: RT @whatscooking: RT @ginarau: Spotlight gone, U.S. Foodservice abandons @jamie_oliver's Huntington's Kitchen http://ow.ly/3U5g4 <-very sad [...]

  3. By U.S. Foodservice responds on February 11, 2011 at 5:10 PM

    [...] Jane Black Skip to content HomeAboutRecent WorkContact « Spotlight gone, U.S. Foodservice abandons Huntington’s Kitchen [...]

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    Jane BlackI am a Brooklyn-based food writer who covers food politics, trends and sustainability issues. My work appears in the Washington Post, (where I was a staff writer), the New York Times, Slate, New York magazine and other publications. On this site, you will find my blog and links to my written work and my Washington Post column, Smarter Food.
      

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