The soup was developed from a family recipe.
By LINDA M. LINONIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- It's a first for the two participants in a soup-selling project whose proceeds will benefit the hungry.
Michael Iberis, Second Harvest Foodbank's executive director, said it's the first cause-related marketing venture in which the nonprofit organization has ever been involved.
For Valley Foods, which provides food for senior meal programs, schools and day-care centers, it's the company's first foray into retail sales.
Second Harvest and Valley Foods had a soup-tasting event Monday at the food bank's location at 1122 E. Midlothian Blvd. for the public to sample Giovanni's Wedding Soup.
The new product, developed and made by Valley Foods, is being sold in more than 25 area retail outlets. The soup, available in quart sizes at retail stores, costs about $5.49. Gallon containers are being sold to restaurants and other institutions. Second Harvest will get $6 a case.
How this came about
The idea for the venture is some 16 years in the making, said John Valley, president of Valley Foods, even though the family-owned company has been a donor to Second Harvest for many years.
It wasn't until recently that Valley had the time to devote to this project because his two sons and daughter run the daily operation.
"I just envisioned doing something more [for the food bank]," Valley said during the soup-sampling event.
Valley met with Iberis and plans for the project really started to cook. Since Valley Foods is a state-inspected facility, the soup production for Second Harvest also had to get this approval before moving forward. It did, and the soup was placed in three test stores this summer.
The response was encouraging. "We got rave reviews," said Valley, who also had his contacts in the food service community sample the soup. "We also got good reviews from people who know the Italian community."
The soup, Valley said, was developed from a family recipe from his mother and grandmother. "It's the real thing. There's no concentrate here," he said.
The soup blends chicken broth, escarole, miniature meatballs and white meat chicken with pecorino and Romano cheeses.
Taking an active approach
The soup-selling project is an innovation for Second Harvest, which distributes food to 200 agencies that help 133,000 people in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Second Harvest gets USDA products and food donations from companies such as Kraft, Pepsi, General Mills, Nabisco and Kellogg's.
"But the need is up and our donations are flat," Iberis explained. "We felt the need to be aggressive in raising money for the cause.
"We wanted to do something creative and innovative ... and find more ways to meet the needs of the hungry," Iberis said. "It's a project to help us meet our mission."
The idea of Second Harvest partnering with a business hadn't been explored until Iberis met with Valley. "I think the community is going to appreciate our initiative to help ourselves," Iberis said.
Second Harvest and Valley Foods also will work with area nonprofit clubs to sell the soup as a fund raiser.
For information, contact Iberis at (330) 783-1122.