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More Than A Woman In Produce: Lisa McNeece Restored Our “Faith In Humanity”

Congratulations are due to Lisa McNeece, Vice President, Foodservice and Industrial Sales at Grimmway Farms, as she will be recognized at the 2013 Reception Honoring Women in Produce to be held at United’s upcoming convention in San Diego.  She joins a most illustrious crew:

Past honorees include:

· Dan’l Mackey Almy, DMA Solutions, Inc.

· Tonya Antle, Tanimura & Antle

· Frieda Rapoport Caplan, Frieda’s Inc.

· Margaret D’Arrigo, Taylor Farms, Inc

· Jan DeLyser, California Avocado Commission 

· Jan Fleming, Strube Celery & Vegetable Company 

· Janice Honigberg, Sun Belle, Inc

· Lorri Koster, Mann Packing Company 

· Kathleen Nave, California Table Grape Commission 

· Dr. Martha Rhodes-Roberts, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences 

· Steffanie Smith, River Point Farms, LLC

· Heather Shavey, Costco Wholesale

· Mayda Sotomayor-Kirk, Seald Sweet International

· Rosemary Talley, Talley Farms

· Jenney Tenney, The Kroger Company

We’ve worked with Lisa on many projects over the years, and just recently we featured Lisa in our Salad Bar Special Edition, which well represented her yearning to move the industry forward.

Of course, we were ahead of the curve on this one, back in 2010 awarding Lisa our own “You’ve Restored Our Faith in Humanity” Award:

When the Pundit was a teenager, he realized one day on a visit to Manhattan that his wallet was missing. Then he received a call from a stranger advising that he had found the wallet — complete with money and all the cards — on the floor in Grand Central Station, where the Pundit had been that very day.

The most logical explanation was that it had been pick-pocketed and, for some reason, the pick-pocket dropped the wallet, possibly fumbling it or running because he saw a policeman approaching or otherwise got scared.

At his suggestion, we had arranged to meet the good Samaritan who found the wallet at The Harvard Club in New York City, and when we received the wallet, which included a not insignificant amount of cash, we proffered a reward but the Harvard man refused.

Told the story, the Pundit Poppa said that the man didn’t need or want money from us and what we should do is write a letter telling the man he had restored our faith in humanity — which we did.

The story comes to mind because, every once in awhile, something happens in this industry that also serves to buttress our faith in humanity.

Such an event happened at the Las Vegas convention of the United Fresh Produce Association, and it prompts us to offer the first ever Perishable Pundit “You’ve Restored Our Faith In Humanity” Award.

This first iteration of the award is granted to Lisa McNeece, Vice President, Foodservice and Industrial Sales at Grimmway Farms.

It has become a tradition at United that the Leadership Classes sell raffle tickets. The prize: 25,000 smackeroos. Last year’s winner, Gina Nucci, Director of Foodservice Marketing at Mann Packing Co., used the $25,000 to contribute toward the cost of her wedding and honeymoon.

This year Lisa McNeece was enjoying the closing banquet that United hosts, and Phil Gruszka, who was then the Vice President of Marketing at Grimmway and a member of 15th Leadership Class, was selling raffle tickets. The revenue from the raffle goes to United’s Research and Education Foundation.

In any case, when Phil approached Lisa to buy tickets, she said she would buy ten tickets from Phil and that if he sold her a lucky ticket, one that won the $25,000 prize, she would split it with him.

Lo and behold, later that night, after the winner was drawn, Lisa started getting texts and calls — telling her she was the winner. She thought her friends had conspired to pull her leg but, in fact, she had really won.

Now there was nothing in writing, there were no witnesses, a lesser person would have been tempted to keep the whole windfall. But not Lisa McNeece.

She immediately reached out to Phil to remind him that he was entitled to half the winnings. She is a woman of her word.

One wonders if there is enough karma in the world to say that Lisa won because she was willing to share and willing to be true to her own word.

In any case, in an industry where Moral Responsibility Ratings are at least as important as credit ratings, it points to why Lisa’s career has been so exemplary. In a world where happiness is determined as much by the caliber of the people one associates with as by any other factor, it is clear why the party is always where Lisa is.

And whenever we are feeling low, all of us can think of Lisa and Phil and how they came to share a small windfall, and we can feel brighter. That is a gift, and so we are honored to bestow our first Perishable Pundit “You’ve Restored Our Faith In Humanity” Award to Lisa McNeece, Vice President of Foodservice and Industrial Sales at Grimmway Farms.


Congratulations to Lisa! You can register for United here and the reception will be held aboard the USS Midway.

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