"Grocery stores are where families come together to plan holiday dinners, birthday celebrations and school lunches," said Parker Slaybaugh, who was named the executive director of the newly formed Virginia Food Industry Association.
The nonprofit trade association was formed to be the leading advocate for retail and wholesale food industries in the state. Members represent more than 55,000 people at more than 530 retail locations in Virginia.
"Grocery associates really are community resources to those families and are always there to kind of help lend a hand to families across the state and country," Slaybaugh said.
Slaybaugh said the association is focused on providing government relation services, advice and input as it relates to the members with legislation that comes before the Virginia General Assembly.
He also said there are a lot of different issues that will affect not only grocery stores and those in the food industry, but also businesses across the state in a variety of ways.
"I think our members found it important to form this association to have somebody who is really an advocate, not only for our members, the grocery stores, but also for the consumers who rely on the food and grocery industry/local grocery stores to really be a resource for them in the community," Slaybaugh said.
"Families form their budget well in advance of their trip to the grocery store and a lot of times they have a budget they like to stick with, so a lot of the issues we are focused on are making sure that consumers can get the food they need at a reasonable price," he continued.
He stressed the importance for the Virginia food industry to have its voice represented.
"A lot of the issues we are focused on are making sure families have access to safe, quality products that they can use to help nourish their families," Slaybaugh said. "And a lot of the goals and objectives we are tackling during this General Assembly session -- and even outside the session -- will really improve the lives of families across the state."
Jennifer Gardner, government affairs manager for Retail Business Services, the services company of Ahold Delhaize USA who is also VFIA board chair, said in a news release that they appreciate the leadership and vision Slaybaugh brings to the association as it grows and develops.
Slaybaugh, who was previously the director of communication for Del. Kirk Cox, is no stranger to the Virginia legislature. He also worked as a television news reporter and anchor in the Richmond and Lynchburg area.
"It was quite an honor," Slaybaugh said of his selection to lead the organization. "It's already doing such great work by its members in nourishing the community in which they serve."
With food deserts prominent throughout the state, he said that is something they would like to address.
"We want to make sure every community, every family has easy access to healthy meat, fruits and vegetables that they need," he said.