The Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association announced its new Board of Directors, welcoming Alex Baloga, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, to its board for 2021.
Today, the PA Dairymen’s Association is well-known for its Farm Show milkshakes and other dairy treats. It first began as the Crawford County Dairy Association in 1871, becoming a statewide association just 17 years later. The PA Dairymen’s Association supports dairy farms throughout the commonwealth and continues its strong presence at the annual Farm Show.
“The PA Food Merchants Association maintains a close relationship with the PA Dairymen's Association to support our state's strong dairy industry," Baloga said. "I'm honored to join the Dairymen's Board of Directors to continue this strong collaboration.”
Baloga became PFMA president and CEO in 2017. After joining PFMA in 2013 as director of government relations, he was promoted to director of government and public relations in 2014 and to vice president of external relations in 2015.
He serves on the Classification and Ratings Committee for the Pennsylvania Compensation Rating Bureau. He is a board member on the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund and joined the Food Industry Association Executives (FIAE) Board of Directors for 2021. In addition, he represents PFMA members on the Pennsylvania Lottery Sales Advisory Council.
Baloga previously served as deputy finance director for Robert P. Casey’s re-election campaign for U.S. Senator, where he directed the fundraising activities in central Pennsylvania. He has extensive contacts from his experience as an associate lobbyist for Greenlee Partners, LLC, a premier government relations firm with offices in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
He worked in U.S. Senator Bob Casey’s Government office as a regional field manager, serving as the senator’s liaison to government, community and constituent groups in central Pennsylvania; monitoring local issues and developments and representing Senator Casey at civic meetings and community events.
Baloga earned his bachelor’s degree in history with a specialty in political science from West Virginia University.
Grants are now available through the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (PA FFFI), a program that investsin new or expanding grocery stores and other healthy food retail outlets in under-resourced communities throughout Pennsylvania.
Several private and public organizations have partnered for this statewide initiative, which is overseen by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, administered by The Food Trust, and supported by program partners Reinvestment Fund, Bridgeway Capital and Community First Fund. The PA FFFI offers one-time grants or loans to food retailers to increase the availability of healthy and affordable food options for residents in under-resourced communities.
"We know that healthier communities create healthier economies, and research shows that the development or presence of a grocery store not only improves access to healthy foods but also creates jobs and stimulates additional investment. That's why we're so excited to be stewarding a new round of funding for the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative,” said Mark Edwards, CEO of The Food Trust.
The PA FFFI originally operated from 2004 to 2010, under Reinvestment Fund’s administration and with support from The Food Trust, and funded nearly 90 projects with over $85 million in loans and grants approved in that period. Since the re-launch of the program in the fall of 2018, 22 additional projects in Pennsylvania have received funding from the PA FFFI, with recipients ranging from large-scale grocers in urban areas to smaller neighborhood stores in rural communities.
Sprankle’s Neighborhood Market, a PFMA member, took advantage of the funding last year, for its stores in Kittanning and Saxonburg.
"Feeding our community is the most honorable thing a grocer can strive to do. PA FFFI is the vessel that helps create that opportunity," said Doug Sprankle, owner of the Saxonburg location.
One-time grants of up to $50,000 are available for eligible projects, as well as additional loans and business assistance. In the past, grants have supported predevelopment costs; land assembly, including demolition and environmental remediation; site development; infrastructure improvement, including renovation; new construction or adaptive reuse; equipment purchases that improve the availability and quality of fresh produce; and innovative food access technology that assists the healthy food access efforts of an existing or new grocery store.
“We represent many members through PFMA who are working hard to deliver fresh food options in low-income communities. These grants through the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative will help our members overcome potential financial barriers as they work to address the need for healthy and affordable food for their customers,” said Alex Baloga, PFMA president and CEO.
For more information on eligibility and how to apply, visit thefoodtrust.org/pafffi. Program partners review applications on a rolling basis and provide financing as funds remain available.
Learn more about PA FFI and its partners by visiting thefoodtrust.org/pafffi/about.
The Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association (PFMA) joins groups nationwide in recognizing the tremendous efforts of grocery workers during the pandemic and beyond.
Gov. Tom Wolf proclaimed Monday, Feb. 22, as Supermarket Employee Day in Pennsylvania as a way to acknowledge and thank supermarket employees for their extraordinary dedication to a job that has become more significant than ever. Nearly 6 million supermarket employees work in the U.S., and more than 220,000 food retail jobs are in Pennsylvania, according to the proclamation. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, supermarket employees continued to “provide all Americans with access to safe, healthy and affordable food” and enhanced “the health and well-being of each customer,” states the proclamation.
“From the first day, our supermarket employees in Pennsylvania left their homes and showed up to work, ensuring that their communities could safely access basic needs,” said Alex Baloga, president and CEO of PFMA. “They adapted and adjusted to extraordinary challenges, whether that be new safety protocols, sanitization measures or keeping in-demand items in stock. And they continue to rise to the challenge, for which we are incredibly thankful.”
The governor’s proclamation recognizes the courage, leadership and service displayed by Pennsylvania’s grocery workers while the demands on these jobs grow. The PFMA represents thousands of food retailers across the commonwealth.
In November, The Food Industry Association (FMI) declared Feb. 22 as the first Supermarket Employee Day in response to the work done by employees at every level to provide essential services. According to FMI, millions of supermarket employees report to work at more than 40,000 stores that sell food and grocery items in the U.S.
The annual DECA Scholarship sponsored by the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association (PFMA) awarded $1,000 to Jessica Zajac, a senior at State College Area High School who has been involved in DECA for the past four years.
Zajac has been accepted to both Penn State and Mississippi State universities and plans to study accounting. She has participated in DECA since her freshman year, holding several officer positions and representing her DECA chapter at state and regional conferences.
“Jessica is an exemplary student, showcasing an impressive high school career,” said Alex Baloga, president and CEO of PFMA. “From her leadership through DECA to community service activities to academic honors and beyond, Jessica shows dedication to her education. We’re pleased to award her the DECA scholarship so she can continue achieving academic success in her college studies.”
DECA, Inc., is a nonprofit organization that prepares emerging leaders and young entrepreneurs from high schools and colleges in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. More than 225,000 members participate across the globe.
Zajac credits her experiences with DECA for allowing her to explore all aspects of the business world. She has served as chapter treasurer, vice president of finance and director of career development. She is now the District 4/5 representative at the state level. During her junior and senior years, she helped plan and implement the DECA Dash, a color run that raised money for charity. This past year, the DECA Dash went virtual, raising $3,500 for Kisses for Kyle. Through her participation in competitions, events, fundraisers, leadership conferences and real-world experiences, she decided to pursue accounting.
“Along with her undeniable talents, Jessica has always been an absolute joy to work with. She is a true team player and always manages to foster a positive attitude while bringing out the best in others,” said Zajac’s DECA advisor, Bridget Ciolkasz, in a recommendation letter.
In addition to her work with DECA, she is a featured twirler and instructor with the Nittany Dreamers Baton and Silks Corps and is State High majorette captain. She is the Interact Community Service Club media secretary and a member of the National Honor Society, National Technical Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society. Zajac is earning her Gold Award with the Girls Scouts of the USA and is a Centre County Outstanding Young Woman finalist.
She also works as a cashier and self-checkout assistant at Wegmans, a PFMA sponsor and member.
Baloga joins FIAE Board of Directors
Alex Baloga, president and CEO of PFMA, has joined the Food Industry Association Executives (FIAE) Board of Directors for 2021.
Since 1927, FIAE has worked to represent local, state and region-al food association executives. The professional association supports growth of its members’ employees and provides a forum for advancement of the food industry agenda.
“It’s an honor to work with my colleagues across the industry while serving on the FIAE board,” Baloga said. “The food industry experienced rapid change and many challenges in 2020, which will impact how we move forward. It’s an exciting time to be part of that conversation and growth.”
Baloga became PFMA president and CEO in 2017. After joining PFMA in 2013 as director of government relations, he was promoted to director of government and public relations in 2014 and to vice president of external relations in 2015. He leads PFMA’s government relations efforts at the local, state and federal levels. He also manages PFMA’s federal, state and Philadelphia Food PACs along with PFMA’s Legislative, Pharmacy and WIC Stakeholder’s committees.
He serves on the Classification and Ratings Committee for the Pennsylvania Compensation Rating Bureau, and as a board member on the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund. In addition, he represents PFMA members on the Pennsylvania Lottery Sales Advisory Council.
Baloga previously served as deputy finance director for Robert P. Casey’s re-election campaign for U.S. Senator. He has extensive contacts from his experience as an associate lobbyist for Greenlee Partners, LLC, a premier government relations firm with offices in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
In addition, he worked in U.S. Senator Bob Casey’s Government office as a regional field manager, serving as the senator’s liaison to government, community and constituent groups in central Penn-sylvania; monitoring local issues and developments and represent-ing Senator Casey at civic meetings and community events.
Baloga earned his bachelor’s degree in history with a specialty in political science from West Virginia University.
Although the Farm Show didn’t kick off this year with the unveiling of 1,000 pounds of carved butter, it reinvented the event staple for 2021. The PA Food Merchants Association was excited to partner with the PA Farm Show and PA Department of Agriculture on Butter Up!—a new, at-home butter sculpture experience. Congratulations to this year’s inaugural winners:
Elementary Winner: Ayleigh Mowers, Duck Slide, Cumberland County; Runner-up: Emily Bentzen, Bunny Hopper, Franklin County
Middle School Winner: Lilly Shaffer, Buttery Bunny, Lebanon County; Runner-up: Laura Amundson, Creamy Cactus, Northumberland County
High School Winner: Kevon Weaver, A Farmer & His Dog, Lancaster County; Runner-up: Kelly Bliss, Butter Barnyard, Huntingdon County
Adult Winner: Garrett McCall, The Good Shepherd, Cambria County; Runner-up: Amanda Kipe, Apple Pie, Lancaster County
Senior Winner: Janet Shinn, Grow Success, Somerset County; Runner-up: Margaret Brostrom, Dr. Levine, Venango County
“These sculptures are amazing! More than 130 participants showed us phenomenal creativity and skill, while often connecting to themes and stories from Pennsylvania and the Farm Show,” said Alex Baloga, president and CEO of the PA Food Merchants Association. “Great job to all who participated, and thank you to our partners, sponsors and members for your support to make this happen.”
The contest kicked off Saturday, Jan. 9, as the PA Farm Show and PA Department of Agriculture launched a full week of interactive, virtual events. Pennsylvania residents were encouraged to creatively carve their own butter sculptures and submit them to the PA Farm Show Facebook page by Saturday, Jan. 16. Winners, chosen by popular vote on Facebook, earned gift cards donated by PA Food Merchants Association sponsors and members. First place in each category received a $50 gift card, and runners up received $25.
“Pennsylvanians showed up in an incredible way for this butter sculpture contest. The entries highlighted the strength and diversity of Pennsylvania agriculture and their participation raised awareness for Pennsylvania’s essential and resilient dairy industry,” said Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Congratulations to the winners and a special thanks to the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association for their support of this inaugural butter sculpture contest, they truly helped it come to life.”
The idea for the butter sculpture contest was whipped up in December, quickly gaining traction as an opportunity to engage Pennsylvanians in a fun, educational and interactive event that promoted a longstanding state tradition. Last year’s butter sculpture, sponsored by the American Dairy Association of the Northeast, celebrated Pennsylvania mascots Gritty of the Philadelphia Flyers, Swoop of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Steely McBeam of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Participants this year worked with 1 pound of butter at home.
PFMA was pleased to support the event, the Farm Show and our partners in agriculture and dairy. A special thanks goes to our members Giant Food Stores, Giant/Eagle, Wegmans, Square One Markets and C&S Wholesale Grocers for contributing prizes.
Liz Kemmery, Director of Communications