Peanut producers have been through good times and bad times, as evidenced by events of this past year, says east Alabama grower Ben Bowden. “Last year, we welcomed a bumper crop, and then one of our manufacturers got into trouble for not doing the things they were supposed to be doing,” he says.
But the salmonella crisis and the subsequent national recall of peanut butter was ancient history as the Alabama Peanut Producers recently donated more than 25,000 jars of peanut butter to eight food banks in the state, including locations in Montgomery, Selma, Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, Auburn, Mobile, Birmingham and Dothan.
At the Food Bank of East Alabama in Auburn, Bowden said the donations represented an opportunity for the state's peanut growers to share their wholesome and nutritious product with those in need. “We know we have a good product — you can't go wrong with it, so eat more peanut butter,” says Bowden.
“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the peanut farmers and this gracious donation that will help in feeding hundreds in the area,” says Martha Faupel, director of the Food Bank of East Alabama. “Whenever people call the food bank and ask what we would like or need, our first answer is peanut butter. It's a fabulous product, it's high in protein, and it's easily digested and appreciated by a wide variety of folks, so we're thrilled to be receiving this donation.”
The timing of the donation, says Faupel, is ideal. “While it's exciting for kids to get out of school for the summer, it can be a difficult time for families who are trying to feed their children who are not getting their regular school lunches,” she says.
Randy Griggs, executive director of the Alabama Peanut Producers Association, thanked the state's food banks for working with his organization to make the donation possible. “Peanut butter is back, and we're encouraging people to think in terms of buying the product again. Last fall, one product manufacturer created a product recall that had national repercussions. This was following the biggest yield and highest quality peanut crop that Alabama and the nation have known. The victim of this recall was not only the consumers but also the peanut industry and the farmer. I don't think consumers became wary of peanut butter, but they became cautious,” he says.
The self-imposed standards of the peanut industry far exceed those required by the government, says Griggs. “If our industry makes any error, it's usually on the side of caution, because we know the consumer is our most precious resource as far as marketing our product,” he says.
The peanut butter was manufactured by Tara Foods of Albany, Ga., which is a subsidiary of the Kroger Company.