Chiquita looks to community service as way into Charlotte communities

by: Blair Miller Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.,None - In the next few months, Chiquita employees will start working in uptown Charlotte at the NASCAR Plaza building. The company already has a temporary office there.

When Eyewtiness News traveled to Cincinnati where the current headquarters is, CEO Fernando Aguirre had been meeting with groups like the Chiquita Moms, who are bloggers from around the country  chosen by the company based on their involvement within their own communities.

One of the moms at the meeting, Katie Barnes-Harding, lives in Charlotte. She said she is proud to see this kind of company moving South.

 

“Having a brand like Chiquita come, that's a completely different brand for Charlotte.  It's just going to do good things,” she said.

Chiquita is a $3.5 billion company and has given millions to charity over the years.

In Cincinnati, the biggest beneficiary is the local chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Chiquita has helped raise millions for the organization.

Aguirre said he's already met with the Charlotte chapter, hoping to have the same impact here. In fact, he says the biggest lesson he's learned in Cincinnati is about charity.

“We've done a little bit of that but we have to do more,” he said. “As this company gets bigger, I clearly expect this company to do more.”

Former Cincinnati Bengal and now Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz knows the impact Chiquita can have. He said his city is losing a great company in Chiquita.

His foundation is also losing a lot because Chiquita has given thousands of dollars to help inner city youth.

“It's not like they're going to go there for a year and check out the landscape and see, well how can we help? They're going to go and get involved. I'd be surprised if it just is not instantly,” Munoz said.

Already, Chiquita has committed to helping in Charlotte by putting salad bars in school cafeterias.

They did the same thing in Cincinnati; they build the salad bars and the schools provided the fruits and vegetables. It was so popular the district expanded it to all 53 schools.

Jackie Rowedder’s school was the first to get a salad bar and says three years later, she cannot imagine not having it there because most of the students depend on it for lunch.

That is the kind of impact Aguirre said the company needs to do more of and he’s already planning for it with the move to Charlotte.

“The Charlotte community, I think, is going to be excited to see and hear the types of programs and roles and people we will be involving,” he said.

Aguirre also said his company offers every employee one paid day off so they can volunteer at the charity of their choice. He hopes that will help them get involved in the Charlotte community instantly.