For the third year in a row, the San Jose, Calif.-based Mushroom Council lent its support to the fight against breast cancer.

Many grower-shippers packed mushrooms in pink containers to help call attention to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

Since 2002, the council has invested more than $750,000 in grants to the Duarte, Calif.-based City of Hope for research on mushrooms and cancer. Last fall, the council provided an additional $50,000 to continue funding these studies.

The industry also was featured in City of Hope’s Super Foods for Super Health recipe program. The recipe program tells how “natural substances in super foods may help prevent cancer,” the Mushroom Council said.

“(Fighting cancer) continues to be something we are proud of,” said council president Bart Minor.

The program draws attention to the fact that cancer poses a serious threat to aging baby boomers and others, and that mushrooms are a delicious and healthful product.

“It’s easy to make food healthy, but it’s not so easy to make food healthy and delicious,” Minor said.

The “pink” program has become so successful that other produce items have adopted pink packaging during October, he said.

The program can help boost sales during the fall, an important factor for a commodity that’s available year-round.

Gary Schroeder, president of Kennett Square, Pa.-based Oakshire Mushroom Farm, which does business as Dole Mushrooms, a company that has been involved with the pink-container program from the start, likes the idea.

“It’s an excellent program,” he said. “It talks to our consumers in the right way.”

Mushrooms have specific health benefits that science has shown makes a difference in health, including fighting cancer, he said.

Participating in the program also paid off from a sales perspective, Schroeder said.

Phillips Mushroom Farms, Kennett Square, also promoted the pink containers, and its efforts were well received, said Kevin Donovan, sales manager.

“The customer is happy with the acceptance, and the consumer seems happy,” he said.

However, he added that it’s hard to say whether the company sold more mushrooms during the promotion period.

Basciani Foods Inc., Avondale, Pa., also has helped fund prostate cancer research, said Fred Recchiuti, general manager.

Mushrooms can help fight prostate cancer, but about 10 times as much money is spent on breast cancer research than prostate cancer research, he said.