Peanuts with a cause

Published 12:19 am Wednesday, May 13, 2009

With a 1 percent increase in peanut butter consumption between March 2008 and March 2009, according to Commissioner Ron Sparks, it seems the recent peanut scare that resulted in the recalling of several peanut-based products, including peanut butter, took a toll on the peanut growing industry.

“Not only were consumers victims, but the peanut industry itself was a victim,” said peanut grower Randy Griggs. “Peanut butter was never an issue, but perception becomes reality sometimes.”

This week, the Alabama Peanut Growers Association is taking steps to clear the air on the product and restore consumer confidence through donations to eight food banks across the state.

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The Selma Area Food Bank received its shipment of three pallets packed with 12-ounce jars of peanut butter on Monday morning.

Each pallet contains 84 12-jar cases, bringing the delivery’s weight to 2,268 pounds of peanut butter.

“Knowing the economic challenge we’ve got and the recall that took place, one of the main staples of food banks is peanut butter,” said Griggs. “There was a void created there. Our growers took this project on to try to do their part to fill that void.

“At the same time, it stands to remind them of just safe and wholesome peanut butter really is.”

Though the donation will provide assistance for the food bank and the 77 agencies it distributes to in Dallas, Marengo, Perry and Wilcox counties, Selma Area Food Bank Executive Director J.D. Parks does not expect the new supply to last long.

“We service about 15,000 a month,” said Parks. “It’ll be gone in a week.”

We certainly appreciate getting that for our clients. They like it. They’re happy about that.”

The economic recession has been an unintentional aid in helping the peanut industry bounce back from the peanut scare. As budgets have tightened, consumers have returned to lower-cost food supplies.

“Traditionally, when economic times are tougher, people go back to basics for an economical food supply. Peanut butter is one of those perfect foods,” said Griggs. “Part of that is people are trying to fill that void, but that’s a good indicator that people have not forsaken peanut butter.”