Dairy Pricing Association makes cheese donation
A ton of some of Wisconsin’s best white cheddar is on its way to hungry families in south central Wisconsin courtesy of the Dairy Pricing Association.
Members of the DPA gathered at Meister Cheese in Muscoda, Jan. 26 to see the shipment of 40-pound blocks of cheese loaded onto a truck bound for Second Harvest Foodbank in Madison.
There it was to be cut into family-sized portions, repackaged and offered to various agencies and faith-based groups that feed the hungry.
Jim Scheuerman, food resource manager for the Second Harvest organization said “first of all our need is so great and this is a very nutritious food.
“It’s a hard commodity for us to get and I expect it will just fly out of our warehouse.”
Once the cheese gets posted to the agencies that use the food collected by Second Harvest, Scheuerman said he expected the cheddar would be “gone in less than 24 hours.”
Re-packaged into two-pound blocks in the organization’s approved clean room, he estimated it would likely help feed 1,000 families who otherwise wouldn’t have that dairy product.
“That is huge. We don’t come by cheese or other dairy products very often — not like this,” he added.
Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin serves 141,000 people in 16 counties, he said, through agencies and faith-based groups that have been approved as affiliates.
The organization to feed the hungry began in 1986 with a staff of three people and now has 33 on staff.
“We do hunger studies every four years. The last was in 2010 and in the four years since the previous study we saw an 86-percent increase in hunger. It’s pretty insidious. It’s everywhere.
“Our area covers from Beloit to Tomah and there are a lot of misconceptions about where people are hungry.” Over half of the people requiring help from food banks have one full-time employed adult in the family, he said.
“That’s where our growth is coming.”
Second Harvest gets its food in three different ways. Their retail channel “rescues” food that would get thrown away from retail stories, Scheuerman explained.
Another source is the food taken from manufacturers like Kraft and Hormel and from food distribution centers.
“Then there’s some food we have to purchase. There’s no peanut butter in Wisconsin and no bananas,” he said with a smile.
Donation is third
This is the third time in its young history that the Dairy Pricing Association has provided dairy products to the hungry through its membership check-off.
Dairy producers who are members of the organization voluntarily check off 10 cents per hundredweight into a fund that is used to purchase surplus dairy commodities, which are then donated to Feeding America.
Feeding America is the national umbrella organization that covers the entire country, Scheuerman explained. Some affiliates chose to also change their names when the national group changed its name.
“But we had such good name recognition that we decided we’d stay with the Second Harvest Foodbank name,” he said.
Robin Berg, a Darlington dairy producer who is chairman of the DPA, said the program is going very well and they now have members in eight states. The cooperative first donated cheese at Nasonville near Marshfield in August.
Then they donated fluid milk in Pennsylvania in October. “Now we’re donating milk that was processed here at Meister Cheese in Muscoda. We hope in February we’ll be back in Pennsylvania,” Berg said.
“Our numbers are starting to grow.”
Berg, a passionate backer of the program to remove excess dairy products and through that process lift the price of milk to dairy farmers, said the need is growing for feeding America’s hungry and poor.
He said that farmers could utilize the option of buying risk management tools for 30 cents a hundredweight, but that money goes to the seller of that management tool. “This is 10 cents a hundredweight and it is used to pay the processor and buy the product to feed to the hungry.”
Connection to Feeding America
Berg hatched the idea years ago, but it didn’t take off until he was able to make the connection with Feeding America, an organization that said it would take all the dairy products DPA could offer, and they’d pick them up and distribute them.
“These products are going to people who are not purchasing dairy products,” he said.
Berg doesn’t want anyone to get the idea that this can or should take the place of dairy promotion and research — the other checkoff dairy farmers pay into. “We have to do promotion and product development for dairy products and for the processing community.”
He hatched the idea when he realized that a 2-percent drop in demand for dairy products brought with it a huge drop in the milk price paid to farmers. He began looking for a way to get that 2 percent out of the marketplace.
The cheese that left Muscoda last week for the tables of hungry Wisconsinites represented about 600 gallons of whole-milk equivalent, said Tom Olson, a Black River Falls dairy farmer who is vice president of the group.
Dairy Pricing Association has 28 members who go through 12 handlers in eight states. Berg emphasized that there is no cost to the handler or processor for participating in this program.
“We welcome all dairy producers, no matter what size, or what grade of milk you produce.”
To learn more about Dairy Pricing Association go to www.dairypricing.org or call 715-284-2590.