Feeding our families; Local schools work to reallocate dairy supply within community
By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD – Wisconsin schools are working to reallocate a surplus of dairy products created by the restrictions placed on local businesses and institutions.
“This is something that is going on in communities all over Wisconsin, with Ag departments and leaderships classes, and group like that who are working with their communities and working with area businesses and individuals to make a direct impact,” said Mark Cournoyer, Auburndale agriscience instructor and co-teacher of their community leadership class.
Among the groups working to redistribute the supply is the Auburndale Community Leadership Class.
“It started a couple of weeks ago, with a letter that came from one of the dairies in the northwest corner of the state,” said Mark Cournoyer, Auburndale agriscience instructor and co-teacher of their community leadership class. “It all came down to; there is a huge bottleneck of dairy right now. There is an oversupply of product in the market because 40 percent of all cheese in the state of Wisconsin would go to food service and 40 percent of all cheese in the nation went to food service. That’s to restaurants, hotels, big population-feeding groups; let alone schools, which schools are still providing dairy products for students in the form of meals and things that they are handing out. All students in a district are eligible to pick up meals in their home district, if they are 18 and under.
“Up in Ellsworth, there was a charge led that was started by one of the milk haulers that put some money forth and said ‘Let’s get some dairy products into the food banks, so that things would get distributed.’
“So, he started that off and it kind of snowballed to other communities, and there have been different forms of it with milk drives, and things like that, milk challenges, trying to get people to consume more.
“We looked at it and our local food pantries, the one thing with dairy products is you need refrigerator space. There is not a lot of refrigerator space in a lot of food pantries, because ‘A’ it consumes a lot of electricity and ‘B’ it could take up a lot of space.”
Cournoyer said that the group looked at the school’s current method of delivery for those families needing breakfast and lunch, which is held Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. In Auburndale, two different paraprofessionals are completing two separate routes.
“Different school districts are doing this in different ways. Some school districts have their school bus drivers still hired on, and the school bus drivers are taking meals out…,” he explained.
The leadership group created the “AHS Diary Drive – Feed our Families” program to make use of product from local dairy processing plants.
The Auburndale FFA Alumni put forward the first $550 that will cover a gallon of milk and a pound of cheese going to 135 families in the Auburndale district.
Since posting the movement on Facebook, the group has gotten three additional weeks of products covered.
“With our model, first of all we don’t have to go to a big store to find the dairy products and the deli products and things like that, that you pick up. Your neighbor right down the road – we live in the Napa Valley of cheese here in central Wisconsin – and there is no reason why you venture out and put yourself at risk…,” Cournoyer said.
“It’s just helping our farmers right now and their processors mitigate the amount of cheese that they have in storage, because milk doesn’t shut off, it keeps coming. We have to do something with it; we have to regenerate interest in people to discovering dairy now that they are home and cooking again.
“Because Auburndale and all of the rest of the communities all over Wisconsin are so tied to our rural communities that is why we want to help our farmers out in any way possible, and if we can shift that demand of dairy a little bit during this process to open their eyes back up to what dairy can do for them…”
“The crazy things that come out of hardships; it’s just amazing. I hope that this inspires people to help and invest in their local communities and look to their neighbors and neighboring farmers, in a different light – in a different marketing light. Anytime that we can find sustenance in our local neighborhood, that’s kind of a cool thing.”
Donations of any size may be made to the project at: AHS Dairy Drive- Feed our Families, Joren Anderson, 5795 First Street, Auburndale, WI, 54412.