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Dane County Giving $3 Million to Bolster Second Harvest Foodbank Operations During COVID-19 Pandemic

April 30, 2020
Ariana Vruwink, 608-267-8823
County Executive

Agreement Allows Second Harvest to Support Dane County Farmers, Growers by Purchasing More Local Dairy, Meat, Fresh Produce for Food Pantries

Today, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi joined community partners at the Alliant Energy Center to announce that $3 million in county funds will go to Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin to help acquire food for Dane County food pantries over the next 90 days. The county will also acquire four cold storage semi-trailers to bolster the ability for Second Harvest to acquire and store more meat, dairy, and fresh produce grown and produced in Dane County.

“While Dane County is a diverse community—made up of urban, suburban, small town, and rural areas—we have more in common than not, especially now as we face the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “Our farmers are dumping milk and unable to sell the goods they produce while food is the number one need among thousands in our community. This win-win partnership creates new markets for our agricultural producers while making sure the shelves at Dane County food pantries are stocked for the months to come with healthy meals,” Parisi added.

Dane County has linked Second Harvest with Dane County Dairy and Pork Producers, the Dane County Farmers’ Market and Fairshare CSA Coalition so more products can be bought directly, which will in turn benefit local farmers and growers—regardless of whether they are pork producers, milk cows, or grow fresh produce like lettuce, peas, etc. This partnership will bring producers and consumers together to improve sales for farmers while resupplying dwindling cupboards of area food banks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our hearts go out to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmers are in the business to feed people, but directives to cut production due to the pandemic, including reducing milk production, closing meat processing plants, and fruit and vegetable harvesting challenges, is negatively impacting farmers and consumers,” said Jeff Endres, Chairman of Yahara Pride Farms. Yahara Pride Farms is a farmer-led organization that strives to preserve agricultural heritage while encouraging farmers to engage in sustainable farm practices within the Yahara Watershed. “The efforts of Dane County to grant funds to Second Harvest Food Bank to source locally produced agricultural products helps area farmers, keeps the supply chain moving, and gets food to those who need it most.”

With this increase in funding and additional food storage, Dane County, Second Harvest, and the community partners supporting this effort hope to help more residents and families who would otherwise face food insecurity during this challenging time. Between March 1 and April 28, the volume of calls to United Way’s 211 line relating to food and meals jumped 300% compared to pre-coronavirus timeframes. Twice as many calls were being made to United Way 211 about food and meals than any other topic. Approximately 30,000 Dane County residents have applied for unemployment since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The funding could not have come at a better time,” said Michelle Orge, President & CEO of Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin. “The overwhelming amount speaks to the magnitude of the response needed to meet the tremendous increase in need. But the reality is that they have not given the money to Second Harvest or the food pantries in Dane County, they have given it to thousands of families in Dane County who are facing hunger, many for the first time. We are grateful for the faith that Dane County Executive Parisi and his team have placed in us and our network to do our part to keep Dane County an amazing place to live.”

More than one million pounds of food have already been packed at the Alliant Energy Center since Second Harvest first began using the facility as a packaging center on March 21. The organization has held 95 shifts for volunteers so far, with more than 1,200 volunteer shift positions being filled. Thanks to the support of its volunteers and community partners, Second Harvest is distributing 70% more food in Dane County than during this same time period last year. Those interested in volunteering at Second Harvest can visit to learn more.

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