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Silverzweig Take II

No trip for the Pundit to Park City, Utah, would be complete without a pilgrimage to see Mary Silverzweig. Mary was trying to increase produce consumption before increasing produce consumption was cool.

Mary is the star of the “Minute in the Kitchen with Mary” video series. These videos played in thousands of supermarkets throughout the country, providing nutritional information, usage advice and much more useful information.

Mary’s husband, and my friend and business partner, Stan Silverzweig, was a leading consultant. He was well known as an expert in training and human resources, famous for — along with his co-author R.F. Allen — coining the term “corporate culture.”

He came to do many projects in produce but was, perhaps, best known in the industry as the creator of PMA’s Retail Training Program, funded by a grant from Chiquita.

This program included a video series and functioned along with a set of trainers that had been trained in “Train the Trainer Seminars,” which were run throughout the country. The program, which had been created based on input from PMA’s Retail Division, educated a generation of store-level employees in everything from food safety to customer service, with countless benefits to retailers and consumers across the nation.

Stan was working on transitioning all his training materials to the latest in computer-aided training when, in a tragedy that could have been prevented by more competent medical intervention, Stan died too young. He left a young widow and growing children. The Pundit gave a eulogy at a service held in the Chapel at the United Nations and wrote about Stan here.

Mary looked wonderful, in the way that people who live in cold areas where outdoor activities are the common recreation somehow do. And the joy of the trip was that she brought along Mary and Stan’s eldest son, Zach, whom we had not seen for many years.

Zach is a young man now, finished with college, just engaged to be wed, and I wonder if he knows how much he is like his father. We had lunch and he spoke just like his father — the unusual mind finding wide ranging connections between seemingly disparate events, combined with the most soft spoken of demeanors.

There was also one similarity with his father that Zach could have lived without. Stan had had testicular cancer and at only 20 years old, Zach was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had already spread to his lymph system. He fought hard and bravely, and, today, thankfully, is in good health.

This adversity spawned an idea that has turned into Zach’s new business venture, a web-based community to provide free online personal training. Here is how Zach explains it:

The idea behind providing free exercise planning and team-based fitness started in 2003 when I was diagnosed with cancer. After major abdominal surgery and two rounds of chemotherapy I weighed only 135 pounds and I needed help to get out of bed. Then I started to get focused on recovery.

I created an exercise program and started keeping track of my diet. Eight months later, I was back up to 175 pounds and stronger than I had ever been before. That was when I first realized the potential of what would become fitResolution.

Since then, I’ve been working with several Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to turn a concept and business plan into ZAS Fitness LLC, which owns and operates My group of advisors includes those who have worked with companies such as Adobe, Apple, Coca Cola, Disney, Google, Microsoft, and The Facebook. ZAS Fitness LLC is backed by a team of investors who are firmly committed to seeing this project turn into a national success.

When we saw what Zach was doing it made us think of our piece, Increasing Produce Consumption At the Worksite, which focused on the work Curtis Granger was doing with the Public Health Institute in California.

If we are serious about combating obesity, increasing produce consumption is only part of the answer. We also have to decrease consumption of some not-so-healthy foods and increase our levels of exercise.

It is important that the produce industry be seen as encouraging exercise; otherwise the admonitions to increase produce consumption come across as self-serving.

Zach’s new program is open to the public in beta test mode right now. Because it is self-contained and web-based, it is the kind of program that is easy for any produce organization urging increased consumption to link to and get involved with.

Zach’s father did a lot for this industry and his son has created a tool that we can find useful as well. He calls it and you can check it out right here.

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