May 29, 2020
Big success seen with Viva Fresh’s Clean Eating Challenge

Not everything has thrived in the midst of a pandemic but the Viva Fresh Clean Eating Challenge participants have proven that they can still deliver positive results with a more than 160-pound cumulative weight loss over six months.

Presented by the Texas International Produce Association (TIPA), on May 20, the Viva Fresh Clean Eating Challenge Reveal kicked off with 145 registered attendees tuning into the live event to hear from Dr. Ian Smith to see the results of participants Tommy Wilkins of Grow Farms Texas, Ed Bertaud of IFCO, Michelle Cortez of Mr. Lucky and Jed Murray of Tenaza Organics.

During the 60-minute event, best-selling author and TV host Dr. Ian Smith chatted with each participant to highlight their goals and challenges. The participants also shared their before and after pictures, along with their health stats that included weight loss, inches lost, positive changes in medical risk factors and reductions in medications.

Participant highlight successes included:

  • Tommy Wilkins – 28 lbs. lost; reductions in cholesterol and blood pressure meds
  • Ed Bertaud – 44 lbs. lost, increased energy and improved sleep
  • Michelle Cortez – 53 lbs. lost, blood sugar stable and off diabetic medications
  • Jed Murray – 36 lbs. and 12 inches lost; decreases in cholesterol and blood pressure

Kim Flores, VP of marketing and business development at Pro Citrus Network remarked, “So many of us, myself included, can identify with the struggles of managing our health as life and stress take center stage, but I was impressed by these participants’ personal and honest stories about hard work and the obstacles they overcame to achieve impressive results.” Flores continued, “These participants and TIPA should be congratulated for creating this challenge and finding a genuine and effective way to show us all we can do a better job of putting our words into action by practicing what we preach.”

But this was not just a show and tell event. Throughout the event, attendees were able to submit questions for the participants and Dr. Smith, as well as engage in online polling that asked about fruit and vegetable consumption, challenges to eating healthy, and reasons to make health changes.

Event moderator Craig Slate of SunFed remarked, “I made the change to more plant based eating several years ago so I know firsthand about the power that fruits and vegetables have to change lives and these participants just reinforced that.” Slate continued, “The online event polls provided a powerful snapshot of where our industry members are falling short in consumption with over 35% of individuals reporting less than 1-3 servings of fruits and vegetables per day and barely 10% of those polled are consuming more than 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables per day. If these are the results in our own industry, we have a long way to go to improve our consumption and challenge our own behaviors before we can expect consumers to change.”

Other poll results highlighted unhealthy weight and lack of energy as popular reasons that industry members felt were motivators for a lifestyle change. A copy of the poll results can be downloaded here.

Challenge participant Ed Bertaud shared these important remarks, which were echoed by  the other participants, “This challenge was life changing for me and I did not know how good I could feel…I don’t want to change what I’m doing, I want to keep going. I haven’t felt this good in decades.”

And for industry members who are inspired by their peers’ success, there will be an opportunity for everyone to get involved and start “walking the talk” with a new challenge in the works. Although the details have not been finalized, those interested in learning more or even following the journey of new participants can visit to sign up for more information. The new challenge is expected to kick off in the fall of 2020 and include a variety of participation opportunities, such as being mentored by the current participants who will continue their own journeys with fresh goals.

Dante Galeazzi, CEO of TIPA, closed by saying, “Our Viva Fresh committee established a clear goal in terms of highlighting the health benefits of fruits and vegetables from day one, and this challenge put those ideas into action. I can’t wait for Viva Fresh 2021 in Dallas next March, and to see a room full of industry members who have committed to changing their health and lives with this challenge.”

For industry members who missed the live event, they can visit the TIPA Facebook page and watch a replay of the live-streamed event.

The Viva Fresh Produce Expo was established in 2015 by the Texas International Produce Association (TIPA) to create meaningful networking and educational opportunities for TIPA members, while shining a light on the importance of the Rio Grande Valley as an emerging trade corridor and production zone for healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables all year long. Viva Fresh Produce Expo will be back but at its new home at the Gaylord Texan in Dallas, Texas, on March 26-28, 2021. For more information, visit

Founded in 1942, the Texas International Produce Association (TIPA) promotes, advocates, educates and represents the more than $8 billion in fresh produce that is either grown in the state or calls Texas the first point of US-arrival for North American distribution. For more information, visit or call 956-581-8632.

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