In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, John and Margo Catsimatidis and 77 WABC Radio presented Goya Foods President and CEO Robert Unanue with the inaugural Humanitarian Award recognizing Goya Foods’ long-standing charitable work on Oct. 6 in Manhattan.
Elected officials, NYPD reps, and community members gathered in the plaza outside 77 WABC Radio’s office at 800 Third Avenue in Midtown, honoring the achievements of the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States, and which has made a difference not only in New York City but across the United States and worldwide.
John Catsimatidis, Chairman and CEO of Gristedes and D’Agostino’s supermarkets, pointed out that 70 to 80 % of his employees are Hispanic, who kept his stores running during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, serving the community “24/7.”
Catsimatidis was proud to present the award to Goya for its contribution to the United States.
“You made tremendous contributions to America. And during the last hurricane, it made tremendous contributions to Louisiana, New Orleans,” Catsimatidis said about Goya foods before turning it over to Louisiana’s State Attorney General Jeff Laundry, who attended via video call.
Laundry pointed out that Louisiana wasn’t a stranger to disaster and devastation and said that Louisiana could rebuild because of the generosity of companies like Goya.
“We want to make sure that people have the basic necessities that get them in a position where they can rebuild,” the Republican said. “And of course, part of that is getting them something to eat. Water, ice, food are a necessity.”
He thanked Robert Unanue for the 40,000 pounds of food Goya donated to the Pelican state.
“You have absolutely made a difference for Louisiana citizens in their darkest hour. So on behalf of Louisiana, we definitely want to thank you again,” Laundry said.
Without further ado, Catsimatidis appointed Unanue as Grand Marshal of the event and presented him with the Humanitarian Award for “helping human beings in need.”
Unanue admitted that he was incredibly overwhelmed by the honor bestowed on him and said that Goya has the opportunity to make a difference.
Invoking God, he said that the country needed to work together, move closer to God, and make a difference.
“We’re blessed and honored to be able to share our fortune, “Unanue, who is no stranger to controversy for his support of former President Donald Trump and claiming that the Democrats used the COVID-19 crisis to steal the 2020 presidential election, said.
“We stayed working during the pandemic, and we were fortunate enough to have food, and we gave away four million-plus pounds last year. We continue to do that because we can, and we’re blessed.”
The company, which is celebrating its 85th anniversary, has always provided humanitarian relief efforts when disasters strike, sending millions of pounds of food to Puerto Rico after the island was ravaged by Hurricane Maria and during the violent unrest in Venezuela, to name a few.
Since the start of the pandemic, Goya has donated over 4.5 million pounds of food and distributed 40,000 pounds of non-perishable food to victims after Hurricane Ida struck the Gulf Coast in September.
Recently, the company launched a global initiative called “Goya Cares,” which is dedicated to eradicating child trafficking domestically and internationally.
“It is 40 million strong around the world and a $150 billion business, 70% women and 25% children,” Unanue explained. “It’s an abuse of our children, and we need to bring awareness to this incredible travesty. Respect the lives of these kids. We’re a disposable society sometimes, but the lives of children are not disposable.”
77 WABC’s morning show host Sid Rosenberg didn’t miss the opportunity to bash former NY Governor Andrew Cuomo as well as current Governor Kathy Hochul before introducing Congressman Lee Zeldin from Long Island, describing him as “the guy that can save New York State.”
“Bob talked about the country being in trouble, and it is. But on a much more intimate level, our state is in big trouble,” the co-host of The Bernie and Sid in the Morning Show said and quipped, “Andrew Cuomo, not so much, Kathy Hochul, no better.”
Congressman Lee Zeldin, who is pondering a run for NY Governor in 2022, said that Goya Foods wasn’t just about creating jobs.
“It’s a model of success that we all should be proud of,” Zeldin said. “But what I think is most important and why we should be filled with tremendous pride for Goya and Bob this morning is the way that they give back.”
Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages said the event was a celebration of ” a great trait Americanism,” which is entrepreneurship, and called small and big businesses the cornerstones of the country.
Solages recalled that as a little girl, her mom sent her back to the store after she had bought a different brand other than Goya.
“Goya a great company,” the assemblywoman said. “Not only do they have quality products, but they have the heart behind the products. They care for their community. And that’s why we celebrate the CEO today because they give back.”
NYPD Assistant Chief and Commanding Officer of Queens South Ruben Beltran represented NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea. He pointed out that it was rare to hear God mentioned “so proudly” at press conferences.
“It’s also unusual to hear in terms of commitment to service when we’re talking about for-profit companies, “Beltran said. “And here we have a great example of a community partner in the business entity that’s doing just that, showing a commitment to service. That’s equal or even greater than some of the work we do here as public servants.”
Councilmember Robert Cornegy, who represents a marginalized community in Brooklyn facing food insecurity, wanted to thank the Goya and Catsimatidis families for their commitment to helping fight food insecurity in neighborhoods like his.
“Sometimes people say you should really put politics aside,” the Democrat who represents Bedford-Stuyvesant and northern Crown Heights in Brooklyn said. “This is the time that we should really put politics aside, and we should stand together to make sure that things like food insecurity in this country are tackled by using our partnership between government and between corporate America. This is an epitome of how it should be.”
Chad Lopez, President at Red Apple Media / WABC Radio, added, ” We are here not as Republicans, not as Democrats. We’re here as people to honor a company that has done good. So thank you, Robert, for being here with us today. Again, we are pro common sense Democrats, and we are pro common sense Republicans.”