With the freeze in Florida, consumers will likely be bracing for higher prices in the produce department. Will the expectation and reality of higher prices keep consumers away?  The USDA’s Fruit and Vegetable Retail report from Jan. 15 didn’t much include any talk about the impact of the cold weather in the Southeast.

The report indicated the top promoted commodities the week of Jan. 15 included avocados, cherries, asparagus, red delicious apples and yellow onions.

By comparison, the most promoted fruit and vegetable at the same time last year were peaches, nectarines, grapes, cherries and avocados.

The lack of Chilean deciduous fruit in the top five promoted items this year suggests that imports so far this season are running year-ago levels. This is generally the case, though there are exceptions.

Here are season to date imports numbers for various Chilean commodities through Jan. 12, compared with a year ago.

Avocados: 210.7 million pounds, up +166%

Cherries: 1.7 million pounds, down 49%

Grapes: 95.6 million pounds, up 1%

Nectarines: 7.4 million pounds, off 48%

Peaches: 8.6 million pounds, off 59%

Plums: 1 million pounds, off 81%

The Consumer Price Index
was updated on Friday, and the summary showed that December’s CPI rose 0.1% and the food index rose by 0.2%, the largest one-month gain in over a year.

Average retail produce prices in December were off compared with year ago levels for apples ($1.11 in December 2009 versus $1.18 in 2008), bananas (57 cents per pound versus 62 cents per pound, oranges (93 cents per pound compared to 94 cents last year) but sharply higher for tomatoes (($1.96 versus $1.73).

We should all be grateful
for the many produce companies and retailers who are helping deliver aid to the survivors of the Haiti earthquake:

Here is one representative example:

Prescott, WA – The Vista Hermosa Foundation, located near the Tri-Cities, has committed $400,000 to four separate organizations providing disaster relief efforts in Haiti. 

The foundation is providing contributions to the following groups to assist in the relief effort: $150,000 to World Vision to distribute family survival kits; $150,000 to Food for the Poor to distribute food and water; and $50,000 each to Beyond Borders and Haiti Partners to support local organizations working in the neediest communities.

As a way to connect the local community and children to this relief effort, the Vista Hermosa Foundation, through its Young Givers Program, will match any funds intended for World Vision, Food for the Poor, Beyond Borders and Haiti Partners.  These funds must be raised by youth living in the Walla Walla and Tri-Cities areas.  

The Vista Hermosa Foundation is a foundation started in 1988 by the Broetje Family.  The foundation uses profits generated from Broetje Orchards to serve children and under-served communities, both at home and around the world.  

How is consumer confidence doing
? Not so hot. The ABC News Consumer Comfort Index (a scale from -100 to +100) showed a reading of negative 47 on Jan. 10, compared with -41 on Jan. 3.

Speaking of consumers, one characteristic of this recession is that it is hitting families, including higher earning families,  hard.
From Reuters

Among the country's 25.8 million married couples with children under 18, about 6 percent of husbands were unemployed in 2009, compared with 3 percent in 2007. The proportion of jobless wives and mothers also doubled to 4 percent from 2 percent in 2007.
"These statistics show us that families are having a difficult time during this recession," said Rose Kreider, family demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau.

The country's unemployment rate exceeded 10 percent in October.

Government data on teen-aged workers has shown the youngest members of the labor force are also struggling with finding and keeping jobs, but there have been few indicators to how the deepest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s has affected children's home life.

Married couples with children in which both parents have jobs totaled 59 percent in 2009, compared with 63 percent in 2007. Families where only the wife worked jumped to 7 percent in 2009 from 5 percent in 2007.

What do you think of the U.S. Organic
Trade Association’s new “Itsworthit” campaign aimed at schools? It seems as aggressive as I can ever remember and I wonder if organic marketers are choosing to go full bore to prevent older consumers from walking away from organic by using the influence of younger consumers..

 From their Web site:

You are what you eat.

That's why we want students across the United States to have access to organic: the only food certified by USDA to have no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, irradiation and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Plus, organically grown gardens and farms use no harmful pesticides and synthetic fertilizers on the soil.

That also why we've begun the Organic. It's Worth It in Schools campaign.  
Enter the Contest Now!

 What it is:

Organic.It's Worth It in Schools is the nation’s first-ever, industry-backed campaign to empower parents, teachers, students, educators and others to request their schools offer organic food.

 How you can help:
Visit http://www.organicitsworthit.org/school-newsletter, enter your favorite school's name and address, and "vote" for your school by signing up for an electronic newsletter featuring organic tips, recipes, news and more.

Sign Up For Our Newsletter!
You can also write a letter to your school, sign and circulate a petition, read and share this fact sheet, download our partnership kit, try these tips, or check out these other resources to help us spread the word that Organic. It's Worth It in Schools.

 What you can win:

The school that wins the most "votes" and generates the most newsletter sign-ups will have the choice of an organic garden, complete with seeds, soil, and support from an organic gardening expert, or a fully stocked organic vending machine featuring items like organic milk, cheese, fruit, yogurt, snacks and more.

Sign Up and Spread the Word: Organic.