As summer meal service across Missouri and Illinois moved from cafeterias to district sites, community centers and food pantries, St. Louis District Dairy Council swiftly moved into doing what it does best: putting local connections to work. The nutrition education organization’s efforts paid off big time for Operation Food Search, the largest free local food bank serving families through 250 partners in 26 counties in the bi-state area. The food bank was the grateful recipient of a trailer containing 44,000 pounds of block cheddar cheese, with a market value of $79,860.
The semi load of cheese made the trek in early May from Mosinee, Wisconsin, after being donated by Dairy Pricing Association, an organization comprised of dairy farmers from across 12 states. The grassroots group has local ties, as SLDDC Board members Derek England and John Good are members. “DPA uses producer assessments to buy excess dairy products from the marketplace and donate them to the needy. The purpose is to ease the burden that excesses have on the on-farm milk prices. The current pandemic presented an ideal opportunity for us to help families in need, along with dairy farmers. It’s a definite win-win,” England said.
Once the DPA board approved the donation, SLDDC reached out to Operation Food Search, having collaborated with them on past projects. SLDDC Program Coordinator Ellen Wheeler worked extensively to help ensure the transport, repackaging and distribution of the cheese in a matter of days. “Some groups are able to fund food banks directly through monetary donations, which will ultimately improve access to dairy foods. Our pockets may not run that deep, but our personal relationships do. They played a huge role in our ability to move quickly on the opportunity to get cheese into food pantries and to our neighbors in need. Promoting dairy through projects that have immediate local impact is at the heart of what we do,” Wheeler said.
The 44,000 pounds of cheese will continue to be cut and wrapped into 5-pound blocks, and distributed throughout sites in the local area over the upcoming weeks, offering high-quality nutrition to families in need.
Monica Nyman is a St. Louis District Dairy Council registered dietitian and senior nutrition educator,