(Nov. 15) More than 268,000 pounds of fresh produce remained from the exhibitors at the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2006 in San Diego.

But the tons of fruits and vegetables didn’t go to waste, with more than 500 exhibitors following PMA’s advice to donate the food to Chicago-based America’s Second Harvest. The donations marked the association’s largest contribution in its annual offering, said Rick Bella, director of purchasing and value added at America’s Second Harvest.

“In the past few years, I have not seen a vendor who has not donated. I can’t say enough. The food banks were left with wonderful produce,” Bella said.

San Diego’s food bank and four other local food banks received the produce. PMA assembled 270 volunteers to organize and palletize the produce. The San Diego Food Bank received the produce in six hours and distributed the food in three days, Bella said.

“PMA said it was the smoothest year they’d had in a long time, and I think it was a great feat for the San Diego food bank,” he said. “They just wanted to make sure the food was delivered fresh.”

The association has been contributing for several years, and each year, it is the largest donation that occurs for America’s Second Harvest, which is the largest charitable domestic hunger-relief organization in the country, said Bella.