September 22, 2005

Hirzel Canning Partners with Ohio Tomato Growers to Provide Hunger Relief in Ohio, Disaster Areas

Toledo business and northwest Ohio growers donate more than 10,000 cases of tomato sauce


TOLEDO – Hirzel Canning Company (Hirzel), which is headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, has partnered with 19 local tomato growers to respond to the national disaster effort and to help hungry families here in Ohio.

More than 207 tons of fresh tomatoes – just over 414,000 pounds – were donated by area tomato growers.  Those tomatoes have been processed into canned tomato sauce by Hirzel, amounting to more than a quarter-million 15-ounce cans of tomato sauce.

“Our company has a long-standing relationship with hunger relief providers,” said Stephen Hirzel, president, Hirzel Canning Company.  “So we knew very quickly that the disaster on the Gulf Coast was going to have far-reaching ramifications for the hunger relief network.” 

A Team Effort

Northwest Ohio tomato growers enjoyed a solid crop of tomatoes this year, Hirzel said.  He said that the tomato growers the company works with recognized that their good fortune gave them a unique opportunity to help those less fortunate.  “The production side of agriculture is rarely seen,” said Hirzel.  “The cooperative effort these growers have made illustrates their commitment to working behind the scenes for the greater good.”

Hirzel’s suppliers of cans and cartons also donated the supplies for the tomato sauce.  Hirzel estimates that the company’s contribution of processing the tomato sauce is worth about $75,000.  The sauce is being canned under the company’s Dei Fratelli and Star Cross labels.

Contributions made across the country

The donated tomato sauce will benefit families in Ohio and across the country.  About six-and- a-half semi-trailers of sauce will be delivered to hard-hit areas of the nation.  Hirzel said that several loads will be directed to staging areas for the Katrina disaster relief effort located at Second Harvest Foodbank of Middle Tennessee.

Sauce will also be donated to the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks (OASHF) network for hunger relief in this state.  “Hirzel has been one of our most valued partners in the effort to fight hunger in Ohio,” said Lisa Hamler Fugitt, OASHF executive director.  “This contribution will have an impact beyond our state’s borders, but will also respond to a significant need here in Ohio for shelf-stable foods.  We are grateful the company recognizes not only the immediate need for disaster assistance, but also the long-term need to feed hungry Ohio families.”

Fugitt said that many of the network’s 3,000 food pantries and soup kitchens have been operating on extremely low inventories, and that some of the food usually supplied to Ohio hunger relief providers by the federal government has been diverted to Louisiana and Mississippi.  Several food pantries in Ohio have closed in the past few months due to a lack of food.

The America’s Second Harvest network has delivered more than 30 million pounds of food and grocery items since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.  Ohio’s foodbanks also have contributed, providing numerous semi-trailers of food to foodbanks in disaster-stricken areas, providing transportation support for food distribution and loaning foodbank personnel to work in disaster areas.

Process already underway

All of the fresh tomatoes have been processed, and initial shipments of the tomato sauce will begin this week, with the bulk of the shipments being made the last week of September and first week of October.

Hirzel, a fourth generation, family-owned and operated company founded in 1923, produces canned tomatoes, tomato products and sauerkraut in three processing locations.  The company also has extensive greenhouse and farming operations in northwest Ohio.

Editor’s Note:  Photo opportunities of shipments being loaded for delivery to disaster areas and hunger relief providers are available the weeks of September 26 and October 3, 2005.  Interviews with Ohio tomato growers, listed below, are also available.


Mike Schulte

Daryl Knipp  

Brad Cherry


Oak Harbor






Steve Hirzel, Hirzel Canning Company, 419/693-0531 or Lisa Hamler Fugitt, Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, 614/221-4336 or 614/271-4803 (cell)

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