Peanut Proud was formed in 2009 in response to the overwhelmingly bad publicity stemming from a Salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter shipped from a plant located in Blakely, Georgia. The fact that only a small fraction of peanut products were affected was obscured by the sensationalism of the recall itself in the press. Industry and community leaders recognized that the negative press was not only having a damaging effect in the town of Blakely but on the entire peanut industry.
Industry advocates began a campaign to turn the tide of negative publicity and to restore consumers’ confidence in peanut products, all while instilling a sense of pride in the people associated with the production and manufacturing of peanut related product. The first ever Peanut Proud festival was hurriedly assembled in March of 2009, drawing a crowd of over 2,000 people. The same media representatives that so tirelessly covered the Salmonella outbreak story were invited back to Blakely to attend the festival.
Over the next several months, the industry emerged from the Salmonella crisis with consumption measurements higher than those before the bad press inundated the airwaves. In 2010, Peanut Proud, Inc. was established as a non-profit organization with the main goal of “uniting the peanut community by celebrating its pride through humanitarian efforts and the recognition of excellence.” Volunteers participated in food drives to collect peanut butter and donations for local food banks; a scholarship in food safety was established with funding from the peanut industry and Blakely community members; a second festival was planned for Blakely. Outside the U.S., the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti demonstrated the need for all people to have access to nutritious, shelf stable food like peanut butter. Peanut Proud volunteers worked with relief agencies already on the ground to deliver eight truckloads of peanut butter to Haiti over a seven-week period.
Peanut Proud continues to operate around the clock supporting the peanut industry and communities in need, thanks in no small part to the passion and dedication of its volunteers. Some recent highlights include:
- The annual Peanut Proud festival grew from 2,000 people in 2009 to over 5,000 people in 2010. This number jumped to more than 7,500 people in 2012 and 2014 was met with a record attendance of 10,000 people.
- In 2012, Peanut Proud supplied U.S. food banks with over $3,000 worth of peanut butter; raised $5,000 in contribution that was matched with its own $5,000 to provide peanut butter to Somalian refugees; and participated in the “MANA Challenge,” which helped raise nearly $83,000 in cash contributions, tons pledged by farmers, and services resulting in over 132,000 pounds of product being produced and distributed to help pull an estimated 23,000 children from the brink of starvation.
- In 2013, Peanut Proud donated a record 210,500 jars of peanut butter to local food banks, churches, state extension service offices, and other groups in need; this has a retail value of $631,000.
- In response to the violent tornadoes that swept through the southern part of the U.S. the end of April 2014, Peanut Proud partnered with the state grower organizations of Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi to donate more than 90,000 jars of peanut butter to food banks in those areas most damaged by the storms.