Wisconsin farmers are on the clock 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. When the COVID-19 pandemic closed or reduced hours of operation of a significant number of Wisconsin businesses and restaurants many farmers and food processors faced much smaller markets for their products. With no kids in school to drink cartons of milk, no restaurants open to make extra cheesy pizzas, and no barbecue joints serving pork sandwiches, many farmers have been impacted by contraction of some of their traditional markets.
The Wisconsin Dairy Recovery and Passion for Pork Programs are two programs which were launched earlier this year to help farmers, while also benefiting food banks and food pantries during this time of need. Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW) and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) joined forces with the state’s leading antihunger organization, Hunger Task Force, to create the Wisconsin Dairy Recovery Program. This program helps provide relief to the growing numbers of underfed and unemployed by connecting milk to emergency food organizations throughout the state.
During COVID-19 many restaurants and food-service businesses have been closed creating a drop in demand for food products. Through the newly created Wisconsin Dairy Recovery Program, Wisconsin dairy farmers are being paid to supply milk to farmer-owned dairy cooperative Kemps, who will be processing thousands of gallons of milk at its Cedarburg facility. The Hunger Task Force has distributed milk to free and local partner food banks and food pantries through the Hunger Relief Federation of Wisconsin, a statewide association that supports food distribution in local communities.
Hunger Task Force is Wisconsin’s leading anti-hunger organization, serving 50,000 people each month, nearly 40 percent of whom are children. Founded in 1974 by a group of parent advocates who were fighting for a school breakfast program in Milwaukee Public Schools, the organization eventually became Milwaukee’s first food bank. Visit www.HungerTaskForce.org/dairy to learn more.
Another program helping farmers is the Passion for Pork. Developed by the Wisconsin Pork Association (WPA) and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) the program works by connecting Wisconsin pork producers to local meat processors, consumers and the growing number of people experiencing food insecurity during COVID-19. The Passion for Pork program has helped to process over 69,000 pounds of Wisconsin pork.
Hog farmers are working with local meat processors, who have agreed to extend hours to process pork for food banks and food pantries. Wisconsin food banks are getting the pork into the hands of those in need. Along with shipping the processed pork to food banks and food pantries, the local meat processors also sell the pork at their retail stores.
The Passion for Pork program also helped to fuel the Pork Schoppe which operated for four days at the Wisconsin State Fair during the first weekend of the Fair Food Drive Thru. The Pork Schoppe sold 4,440 sandwiches and 200 pork bundles! The sale of these pork products benefits the farmers whose hogs have gone into the Passion for Pork program. If you are interested in learning more about the program visit https://www.wppa.org/passion-for-pork-campaign/.