It was a full house at the St.-Leonard-based Quebec Produce Marketing Association’s annual cocktail and Texas hold’em poker event April 26 at the Metropolitain Golf Club in Anjou.

The event attracted close to 400 produce insiders and raised more than $20,000 for QPMA’s I Love 5 to 10 Servings a Day campaign, intended to raise consumer awareness about the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy lifestyle.

To kick the nine-year-old program up a notch, the association is running ads in Ricardo and Coup de Pouce magazines to show consumers how easy it is to add just one more fruit or vegetable serving to their daily meals.

Ricardo magazine will include recipes and nutritional information on the featured produce.

QPMA executive director Sophie Perreault said the I Love 5 to 10 Servings a Day campaign is getting great visibility on Facebook with help from host Ricardo Larrivée and through sponsorships such as the CIBC Run for the Cure and the annual Défi Sportif (Sport’s Challenge), which brings more than 4,000 disabled athletes from 20 countries to Montreal for a week in April.

The association also partners with organizations such as Dairy Farmers of Canada.

On May 30, QPMA won a provincial public relations award for last year’s Mandoline campaign, an educational tool kit and poster that helps kids discover fruits and vegetables with their five senses.

Perreault said QPMA has distributed more than 2,600 kits free of charge and more than 450 child care workers across the province have ordered additional kits.

California products

In April, QPMA published its latest guide in French in collaboration with the Buy California Marketing Agreement. The guide, which includes recipes and food and wine pairings, features consulting dietician and spokeswoman Julie DesGroseilliers “on the road” with California avocados, asparagus, cherries, pears and wine.

QPMA, working with other local industry associations, has developed a new “Freshness” website to link chefs with fresh produce grown in Quebec.

“Chefs and distributors don’t always know what’s growing in Quebec, and they often call us looking for items like edible flowers or fresh garlic,” Perreault said.

“Now they can go to one site and get all the information they need,” she said, “including when products are in season, who grows them, what kind of certification the grower has and what size pack the produce comes in.”, launched in May in French, also has built-in GPS that shows chefs how far each farm is from their restaurant.

“It’s really been the missing link,” Perreault said, “We’ve now got growers calling us saying they want to be on the site.

“I’m telling them to pass the word so we can really make this a useful tool for chefs, restaurateurs and institutions,” she said.

Recipes wanted

Perreault is inviting industry organizations to contribute recipes using fresh fruits and vegetables to the regular QPMA website. She said the recipes are planned to be offered in French but are expected to be available in English at some point.