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Exchange program helps connect farmers to food banks, pantries

Grace Connatser
Wisconsin State Farmer
A delivery of cheese products from Emmi Roth arrives at the Second Harvest Food Bank in Madison. An information platform is helping to make the process of connecting food banks with food suppliers transparent.

Wisconsin farmers will soon find it easier to sell their excess product by giving back to families in need through food banks and pantries.

A press release from the Jahn Research Group says FoodSourceUSA, an online exchange program, is connecting farmers and food banks and pantries to help families who have been struck by unemployment and other effects of the economic depression caused by the pandemic. Farmers have been hit hard by the depression because of a massive surplus of product, like milk in Wisconsin.

Dairy farmers have had to dump milk, cheese and other dairy products because their biggest purchasers, such as schools and restaurants, have closed and are unable to buy what they normally would. But the FoodSourceUSA program, supported by federal funding, is helping those farmers find food banks to buy the products instead of creating food waste.

“The solution is free for both buyers and sellers nationwide,” said Molly Jahn, former dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jahn also said the platform provides transparency and security to all parties involved.

The release also said that Governor Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection are investing $15 million in federal funds to address food insecurity due to the depression. The money will also go towards helping agriculture production to sell their excess product so they don’t need to dispose of it.

Second Harvest Foodbank bought 14,000 pounds of cheese from Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association member Emmi Roth in the program’s first transaction in early May. The cheese had originally been intended for food service, but the economic impacts suffered in the food service industry prevented the sale from going forward, the release said. Produce and meat have also been products of interest on the platform, the release said.

“The FoodSourceUSA solution provides an exciting opportunity to meet the needs of those facing hunger in our community, while helping local farms at the same time,” Michelle Orge, president and CEO of Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, said in the release.

Farmers with product they want to sell to a food bank or pantry can contact FoodSourceUSA at their website, foodsourceusa.com.