In late October, a six-pallet truck delivered cartons of fresh produce to help people living in one of the most impoverished regions of the U.S.

The contribution also included the refrigerated truck as well as two storage containers that were delivered earlier to serve as cold storage for the Rockin’ Appalachian Mom Project’s food programs.

Members of the Southeast Produce Council are supporting the program, which provides food for poverty-stricken children and families in the Appalachian region.

Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable Inc., Norman Park, Ga., donated the containers and immediate past council president John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce Inc., Reidsville, Ga., contributed the truck, which RAMP plans to use to distribute food to needy in eastern Kentucky’s Martin County.

L&M Cos. Inc., Raleigh, N.C., helped through its distribution centers and Reed Transport Services Inc., Brandon, Fla., also contributed, said Sheila Carden, the Richmond, Va.-based retail marketing director for the National Mango Board, Orlando, Fla.

“It’s an amazing organization (the council) and you just can’t believe people live like that in the U.S., in horrible circumstances,” she said.

The program is only one of many industry and community support programs the 14-year-old council supports.

This fall, Shuman ended his two year presidential term while Andrew Scott, the group’s first vice president and sales and procurement manager for Forest Park, Ga.-based General Produce Inc., advanced to president.

In becoming the group’s seventh president, Scott is the first wholesaler to head the council.

Previously, grower-shippers and a retailer served as presidents.

Scott, who first became active in the group’s early years when he was with Eden Prairie, Minn.-based C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., said he isn’t sure how a distributor heading the organization could change things but said he plans to use his term to work with the group’s directors to find other charitable causes.

He said he wants to help expand the RAMP program to other Southeastern states, including areas of Georgia that could also use assistance.

“We plan to have conference calls about the possibility of organizing things in the Southeast as central consolidation points, and, if we can, send full loads of produce to the areas,” Scott said.

“Those people that contributed the truck and containers spent a lot of money on something they didn’t have to do and wrapped their arms around the project and ran with it.”

Shuman and Scott point to expanded membership and increased retail and foodservice buyer participation in the group’s conferences and expos.

Scott said the council is considering relocating the spring trade show, which has traditionally been held in Orlando, Fla., and Tampa, Fla., to south Florida so participants can experience tours of the Sunshine State’s other growing regions.

Shuman said his term as leader focused on driving membership, which is now nearly 800.

“We’ve certainly changed in size, exposure and impact throughout the industry,” Shuman said.

“We were very small before we came out with the regional trade show concept. But it’s the people and the relationships and the core values we all seem to share and how we all continue to work very hard to provide for the industry, that has stayed the same.”

Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for Florida Classic Growers, the Dundee, Fla., marketing arm of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association, was council leader in 2006.

He said other council leadership programs and scholarships help generate future industry leaders.

“The council is building momentum and continues to grow tremendously over the years,” he said.

Email dohlemeier@thepacker.com.