Race-West is a grower shipper distributor focusing on four core commodities, potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, and carrots. These past few weeks, however, Harris Cutler, the company’s president, has shifted the company’s focus and tools to a different outlet. “We have reorganized our distribution to help out where it is needed most,” Cutler says.
Connecting extra supplies with extra demand
The first way in which Cutler has done this is by helping suppliers sell their product. “One day, we received a call from one of our family-friends who was really worried about being able to supply her family with food while on lockdown. Then, the next day we received a call from one of our wholesale partners who didn’t know what to do with all the product they had leftover due to the loss of the foodservice. I realized that there was the supply and the demand, all that needed to happen was for them to be brought together.”
Cutler worked to bring together these two parties, and then started to expand the model to help many others as well. “We opened it up on social media, and for $180, consumers would receive 450 pounds of assorted produce – which is then often re-divided over an entire family. A few days in we already had 123 orders, and last week we hit order 514. With this model, we only made 75 cents profit, but the wholesalers didn’t incur losses, and the consumers got a great deal. We would facilitate delivery of the product to the consumer’s doors, with the only condition being that the product can be delivered on a flat curb,” Cutler says, adding: “Our wholesaler is now busier than he was before the pandemic and has begun packing produce boxes for quick distribution.”
Farmer’s market the Race-West parking lot
As another way in which to facilitate the distribution of these extra products, Race-West has opened up their parking lot. Cutler explains: “The local wholesalers were in a lot of trouble due to the loss of the restaurant business. Since the majority of our staff is currently working from home, we have offered up our office as a storage space for the extra food. We have pallets of potatoes, onions, carrots, and fresh fruits in our parking lot and have a farmer’s market going at the back of the building. The supermarket stocks aren’t always full, and the prices can be higher than usual. This has led to a bit of a food panic, which is what we’ve seen in our circle of employees and their families. So, the parking-lot distribution of this extra produce has been a great solution.”
Race-West distributing product outside their offices.
Donations to those in need and frontline workers
Besides the company’s work to help facilitate the re-distribution of products that would otherwise have gone to waste, the company is also engaging in donations. “Over the past five weeks, our team has distributed food to hospital workers, police officers, and firefighters. Last week we also opened up the donations to churches and civic groups,” says Cutler.
The donation program is also being expanded to include people who might be in need but aren’t involved in feeding programs. Cutler shares: “Last week, we went to New Jersey and donated products to the Jewish community there, as well as to the Hispanic community. The next focus will be communities who are experiencing food insecurity in New York City.”
Cutler has been inspired by his wife, Janice, and his children to help as many people with their fresh produce as they possibly can. “This is the time to get to work. The food is in the fields, and often the cost of harvesting, packaging, and distributing these products is too high if there isn’t enough return. That is why many growers are opting to let the product lay in the fields, but if you can donate then please do so,” Cutler says.
Race-West distributing product at a high school.
“We, as a family experienced hunger when I was young. It is a daily battle and sadly, even when there is food, it is only half enjoyed with the knowledge that hunger will return. That is why the company strives to help those in need at all times. We learn from the community in Lakewood, that those in need deserve the best. We are helping those we can in the current USDA box produce deal and want to encourage all involved to give those in need, the best produce they can, not what is least expensive,” Cutler concludes.