HOUSTON - In an effort to raise awareness and boost membership, the Houston Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association opened its doors to the industry for a luncheon and open house.

The June 23 event drew about 100 attendees and about 10 exhibitors.

Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples and Bryan Silbermann, president and chief executive officer of the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., were featured speakers.

The event's purpose was twofold, said John Kreger, president of the HFFVA.

"Getting people involved was the main focus," he said. "We primarily wanted the focus to be education and a membership drive."

The HFFVA has three signature events a year - a Children's Nutrition Expo, a book cover drive for Houston public schools and its annual Gift of Produce.

Through the Gift of Produce, now in its 23rd year, the industry has donated more than a million pounds of fresh produce to the Houston Food Bank each year during the past 8 years.

Jack Amerson, a first-time attendee and senior manager of produce and floral for Houston-area Sam's Club stores, said the event was a good way to connect with the produce side of his business and get tips on merchandising and demonstrations.

Bill Raker, a U.S. Department of Agriculture officer-in-charge for the Houston area, said the open house was a good way to get face time with local industry members.

"Getting involved with the association at a local level is very important," he said.

The HFFVA's next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 9.