United Fresh Produce Association will present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Hugh Topper, group VP of fresh foods for H-E-B, at its Foundation Gala Dinner Jan. 16, at the Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego, California.
“As Hugh plans his retirement at the end of this year, I can’t think of a more deserving individual to recognize for his more than 35 years serving the produce industry,” said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. “I know both suppliers and other retailers throughout the produce industry will want to join in honoring our dear friend Hugh Topper.”
Topper joins a distinguished group of past recipients, including Bruce McEvoy, Rick and Tonya Antle, Mike Cavallero, Joe Procacci, Reggie Griffin, Frieda Caplan and Bob Grimm (posthumously).
A native of Midland, Texas, and raised on a family cattle ranch in Oklahoma, Topper received a BS in Agricultural Economics from Oklahoma State University in 1982. He joined Fleming Foods Co. and worked for 10 years in Kansas, California, Missouri and Texas, holding positions as quality assurance manager, produce merchandiser, produce operations manager and manager of frozen food/dairy operations.
Coming back to his roots in Texas, he joined the H-E-B Grocery Co., where he has worked for 26 years building a solid foundation for the company in fresh produce and fresh foods, says United Fresh. Topper has served H-E-B as produce category manager, director of produce procurement, VP of produce procurement, VP of produce, chief merchant for central market division and group VP of fresh foods.
Throughout his career, Topper has been active in the industry, serving on the United Fresh Board of Directors, United Fresh Start Foundation Board of Trustees, Texas International Produce Association Board of Directors, Produce for Better Health Foundation Board and as Produce Marketing Association’s PEIB board chairman.
Topper also has worked with Texas A&M University as a guest lecturer for the College of Agriculture, and as an advisory board member for the Texas A&M Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center and Texas Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee.
Topper has always given back to the community. He has been the United Way chairperson for H-E-B, which was recognized as the No. 1 company employee contributor in Texas. He also served on the San Antonio Food Bank Board of Directors and as a San Antonio Food Bank committee chair. While leading the Food Committee, he created the annual holiday gift of produce, “Harvest from the Heart,” which has generated more than 14 million pounds of fresh produce for those in need to support holiday meals in the past five years.
Topper’s leadership with the United Fresh Start Foundation was a natural outgrowth of his and H-E-B’s commitment to children’s health, says United Fresh. In Seguin, Texas, Topper started a salad bar program for all elementary schools. The newest program he created is “Let’s Get Growing,” a program for low-income elementary schools in South Texas. The Program teaches second-graders how to grow produce through individual take-home “farms.” It also partners with H-E-B dietitians, school administrators, teachers, students and parents to put together healthy meals through education and fresh produce consumption. To help drive participation, the school that has the highest support from parents gets a new playground.
The United Fresh Start Foundation Annual Conference, Jan. 16-18 at the Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego, will feature a new half-day program focused on growing access to fresh fruits and vegetables; all of United Fresh’s traditional volunteer leadership board, council and committee meetings; the foundation’s annual fundraising golf tournament; and a new silent/live auction.
Topper will receive United Fresh’s Lifetime Achievement Award during the foundation’s Gala Dinner Jan. 16. Industry members and guests are invited to register for the conference and gala dinner, as well as the foundation’s fundraising golf tournament.
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