In a strange and unprecedented time where grocery store shelves have been bare and families are forced to provide more meals at home, one local business has been aiding the community in a unique way. Cusumano & Sons have been offering low cost, fresh produce bundles to the Mt. Vernon community and beyond.
Cusumano & Sons regularly distributes wholesale produce to restaurants, hospitals, schools, stores, and even prisons within a 100-mile radius of Mt. Vernon. Mt. Vernon resident, Rex Cusumano, is President of the business, with sons Tony and Lance as co-owners. At the end of March, Cusumano & Sons posted a pre-order produce offer to anyone in the community on their Facebook page. Produce bundles for sale included apples, lettuce, broccoli, peppers, carrots, potatoes, and more. Bundles were offered at a price amounting to about half of what it would cost to pick those same items up at your local grocery store. The response to the Facebook post was overwhelming. “We didn’t come close to estimating the amount of volume and response. It was vastly more than we anticipated,” Cusumano expressed. The entire staff of Cusumano & Sons, including their sales team, warehouse workers, and delivery drivers, worked overnight for two nights straight to put all of the bundles together.
On the first day of distribution, orders were handed out in shifts. The customer simply pulled in to Cusumano & Sons, told them their name, paid with cash, and Cusumano’s placed the produce bundle directly in their trunk. Practicing social distancing, the community did not even have to get out of their car.
The idea all started when son and co-owner, Lance Cusumano, called his Dad saying, “People are having trouble finding produce fresh fruits and vegetables. They wanted to help local families stretch their food budget and find available fresh produce. With much of the community being off work or struggling in some way during this time, the Cusumanos wanted to lend a helping hand by filling this need the best they could.
Cusumano & Sons are also taking their fresh produce bundles to Marion, IL. Because the business serves a 100-mile radius, the Southern Illinois community as a whole is part of the Cusumano & Sons family. “Any community that sees our trucks in their town, if they want us there, we are going to try to come,” Cusumano comments. The company is looking for other areas in Southern Illinois to offer their produce bundles next.
Cusumano strived to put together a variety of common produce items that families would regularly use in meals. Following the first bundle pick-up, many residents went to Facebook to share their meal creations using the produce they bought from Cusumano & Sons. Facebook users shared photos of carrot chips, fried potatoes, carrot cake, and more. Many residents shared they were going to split the produce bundle with their neighbors. One local man paid for two bundles but only took home one, asking the Cusumanos to give the second bundle to a food pantry of their choice. “The humanity in people really came out,” Cusumano remarked.
Cusumano & Sons is currently accepting orders for their second produce bundle pick-up in Mt. Vernon. Orders can be made my calling (618) 244-0198, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or messaging their Facebook page HERE. Orders are being accepted through Monday, April 13th at noon and will be ready to pick-up between 9 a.m.- 12 p.m. Saturday, April 18th. The bundle features russet potatoes, navel oranges, yellow onions, red apples, pineapple, cabbage, celery, carrots, green bell peppers, mangos, and cantaloupe all for just $25. The low-cost produce is not only benefitting the community, it is also helping Cusumano & Sons to keep their employees employed. Because the company regularly sells to restaurants and schools, they have lost a portion of their usual business and would not have needed all their current employees if it weren’t for this public sale of produce. Remarkably, Cusumano & Sons have not had to make any layoffs during this time. In fact, many of their employees have received overtime fulfilling bundle orders.
The public’s support has been very gratifying for the Cusumano family and business. Cusumano comments, “Everybody is struggling right now. This hopefully played a small part in making it through.”