Salinas mascots to race against hungerSPRECKELS, Calif. — Captain T&A, Tanimura and Antle’s answer to caped superheroes, joined a parade of grower-shipper mascots and Ag Against Hunger volunteers in a lettuce glean to support local foodbanks.

They filled 20 bins with 9,000 pounds of the multicolored lettuce July 14 in Spreckels.

Josh Ruiz, general manager for iceberg, cauliflower and broccoli, instructed new volunteers and supervised the event. Tanimura & Antle is a frequent contributor to Ag Against Hunger.

Dole Fresh Vegetables’ Luci Lettuce, Chiquita Banana and Ocean Mist Farms’ Arti the Artichoke, among others, joined Captain T&A to help promote their second annual fundraising race, Fight Hunger Night. The 100-meter sprint is set for July 20 at the California Rodeo Salinas.

Last year’s race raised more than $13,000 for Salinas-based nonprofit Ag Against Hunger. It’s an idea inspired by the Milwaukee Brewers’ sausage races.

Eight grower-shippers participated in the 2011 race, including some last-minute entries. This year’s scheduled lineup includes first-time entries from Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Soledad-based B&P Packing Co. and Salinas-based Bengard Ranches.

The field of 10 also includes Chiquita/Fresh Express, Church Brothers, Dole; Ocean Mist, Pacific International Marketing, Tanimura & Antle and The Nunes Co.

Regular gleaning volunteers will participate, too.

Last year’s winner was an entry from Green Giant Fresh, with Foxy Lettuce from The Nunes Co. second and Chiquita Banana third.

David Peartree, board member at Ag Against Hunger, said the gleans — which happen two to four times a month during peak production — are essential to his organization’s mission.

“It’s very important for us to be able to take lettuce out of the field, bring it to our distribution point and get it out to foodbanks,” he said.

Since June they’ve been moving that produce in a new 53-foot refrigerated trailer, made possible by a $50,000 grant from Wal-Mart and discounts from ThermoKing, Utility Trailer and Central Coast Sign Factory. Ag Against Hunger hopes to move an additional 250,000 pounds of produce beyond last year’s total of 13.9 million. The prior trailer will be used for overflow cold storage when the cooler is at capacity.

Beneficiaries include foodbanks in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties. Some produce goes into wider distribution in California and other Western states.