Workers at Pacific Coast Fruit Co., in Portland, prepare food boxes for distribution as part of a federal program. The company also has a Kent warehouse. COURTESY PHOTO, Pacific Coast Fruit

Workers at Pacific Coast Fruit Co., in Portland, prepare food boxes for distribution as part of a federal program. The company also has a Kent warehouse. COURTESY PHOTO, Pacific Coast Fruit

Large Kent produce warehouse part of federal food distribution program

Oregon-based Pacific Fruit Co., receives $24.8 million USDA contract

A Portland-based produce distributor with a large Kent warehouse received a $24.8 million contract from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help get food boxes to people in need in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California.

Pacific Coast Fruit Co. will help distribute 810,000 produce and dairy boxes as part of the federal Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program. USDA will purchase and distribute up to $3 billion of agricultural products to those in need across the nation. USDA will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase fresh produce, dairy and meat, according to the USDA website.

Founded in 1977, Pacific Coast Fruit employs more than 500 people spanning between two facilities – a 90,000-square-foot warehouse and Fresh Cut center in Portland, and an 83,000-square-foot warehouse in Kent. The company purchased the large Kent warehouse in 2014 to replace a Kent facility it opened in 2009, according to an email from a company spokesperson. Pacific Coast Fruit employs about 100 in Kent, the spokesperson said.

Beginning May 18 through June 30, the food boxes will reach about 135,000 people every week, including food insecure families who need it most. Through these efforts, Pacific Coast Fruit is also keeping farmers farming and supporting a healthy food supply chain by providing a new distribution to keep businesses running and minimizing food waste.

“Family is extremely important to our culture here at Pacific Coast Fruit Company,” said Nancy Nemarnik Brugato, vice president of development, according to a company press release. “Something my dad, co-founder Emil Nemarnik, always said was take good care of your employees, farmers, shippers and customers. By being awarded this generous USDA grant, we are able to help our food industry and community during a time when they need it most.”

Pacific Coast Fruit will box 12 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables and eight million pounds of dairy, eggs and protein. USDA selected Pacific Coast Fruit to help prepare three Farmers to Families Food Boxes that include 25 pounds of fresh food each, the boxes include:

* Produce box: consisting of apples, oranges, strawberries, potatoes, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, romaine lettuce and carrots.

* Dairy box: consisting of eggs, 2% milk, non-fat milk, half & half, butter, yogurt, cheddar and jack cheese.

* Combo box: consisting of packaged deli ham and chicken, butter, 2% milk, cheddar and jack cheese, romaine lettuce, potatoes and onions.

Pacific Coast Fruit, a multi-generational family owned company that serves retailers, wholesalers, processors and restaurants, worked quickly in seven days with several 501(c)(3) organizations to set up both distribution sites and pickup centers across the Pacific Northwest.

Nonprofit partners include Food Lifeline/Feeding Washington (which encompasses over 500 food banks in the state of Washington), Tacoma Public Schools, the Kent School District, Federal Way Public Schools, Tacoma Public Schools and others.

Charlie’s Produce, Meadow Sweet Dairy, Alki Bakery and Renaissance Food Group partnered with Pacific Coast Fruit to help prepare the food boxes.

Smith Brothers contract

Kent-based Smith Brothers Farms received a $575,050 contract from USDA to provide milk products. The company started in 1920 in Kent and operated a facility along West Valley Highway just north of South 277th Street before moving in 2014 a few miles to the east to its current Kent facility.

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