Longtime Georgia Food Industry Association (GFIA) President Kathy Kuzava is not only marking 25 years with the organization this year but, on Saturday evening, she received the association’s 2014 Legacy Award, given annually during the GFIA Convention.
The award came as a big surprise to Kuzava, who believed the honor was being given to Jeff Downing, owner of Foothill’s IGA Market in Marble Hill. Friends, family and colleagues even went so far as to have an award made for Downing and created a video about his life and career so as not to tip off Kuzava.
“Kathy embodies every attribute of a successful industry advocate,” said Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, who referred to her “as a very good friend.”
Verlin Reece, chairman of the GFIA Board of Directors and owner of Commerce-based Quality Foods Inc., described Kuzava as “caring, loyal and passionate,” while Larry Higdon, president of Cairo-based Ira Higdon Grocery Co. and GFIA board director, said Kuzava “brought the association back to life” when she took the helm of GFIA more than two decades ago.
She also was described as a “true visionary” and “sharp as a tack.”
Kuzava began her career while still in school, working part time at Food Giant in Atlanta and later Supervalu after it purchased Food Giant. She came on board with GFIA in 1989. She has described herself as a “self-taught lobbyist.”
Kuzava has been recognized by both the Food Marketing Institute and the National Grocers Association and is involved with her church as a youth leader with a passion for learning and education.
Kuzava, in accepting the award, said she was humbled. She thanked her husband and children and her “grocery family.”
Read more about Kuzava and her Legacy Award in the September print edition of The Shelby Report of the Southeast.
The 2014 GFIA Convention wrapped up in Amelia Island, Fla., on Saturday. In addition to recognizing Kuzava with the Legacy Award, Barry Robinson on Friday evening received GFIA’s Servant Leadership Award. The recognition was for Robinson’s outstanding leadership and exemplary service to the association.
“You are the true model of a servant leader and we are thankful for your contributions,” the award reads.
Robinson retired last month from Delhaize America after 26 years with J.H. Harvey Co. He worked for Piggly Wiggly Southern for 16 years prior to that.
The convention hosted its annual trade show Saturday afternoon. Booth winners include: single booth—Empire Distributors/Sam Adams; and multiple booths—Coca-Cola Refreshments.
The convention also raised more than $114,000 for the GFIA Education Foundation, according to the foundation’s 2014-15 chair, Donna Garcia of Jana Artesian Water. She takes over for outgoing chair, Greg Edenfield of Wayfield Foods.
The convention kicked off Thursday evening and saw Kevin Davis of Kroger in Griffin take home Georgia’s best bagger title. Read more about his win here.
In the featured photo at top is Kathy Kuzava with her family, from left, son-in law and daughter Wes and Kristen Clackum, husband Al and son Kevin. Find more photos from the convention here.