Written by: Victoria Broehm | May 3, 2021
Across the U.S. animal food industry, our members have gone above and beyond throughout the coronavirus pandemic to help their local communities in need – from providing food (and pet food!) donations to manufacturing hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment at their facilities to everything in between. We recently had the opportunity to speak with one of our members – Balchem – on a “kool” project it is working on to support local communities.
“Last March, we saw this unfortunate situation where milk was being dumped due to a drop in demand, as a result of schools and restaurants being shut down, with nowhere to send it,” said Jonathan Griffin, Balchem Corporation’s vice president and general manager. “But at the same time, we saw a growing number of Americans going without adequate nutrition, including fresh milk, produce and meats. We thought – we have to do something – and that’s where the Kooler Kids Project began.”
“We learned that there was infrastructure challenges at food banks across the country; lack of refrigeration for perishable items and a shortage of volunteers at food banks,” said Melissa Malcolm, director of national sales and field marketing at the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP). “So even though the government was purchasing and sending CFAP food boxes for relief, it was still burdensome to ensure food perishability safety and to get this food out quickly to millions of Americans.”
Here are a few sobering statistics, from Feeding America, that Griffin shared:
While donations to food banks through Feeding America have been invaluable to helping more Americans and their children gain access to their next meal, unfortunately, many rural food pantries lack adequate refrigeration, making it difficult to provide fresh and nutritious perishable foods. For example:
“That had to change,” Griffin said.
Partnering with the DFA Cares Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, and its Farmers Feeding Families Fund, Balchem reached out to the vast network of food pantries by either providing funds to purchase industrial-sized refrigerators or donations of used ones.
“Early in the pandemic, the family dairy farmer-owners of Dairy Farmers of America recognized the increased need among food banks and established the DFA Cares Farmers Feeding Families Fund to help provide dairy products to those who need them most,” said Marjie Knust, senior director of corporate communications for Dairy Farmers of America. “We quickly realized that a lack of refrigeration in smaller and rural food banks and pantries created a barrier for providing the valuable nutrition of dairy year-round. Expanding our efforts to provide cold storage was a natural next step.”
Refrigeration also allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend the reach of its CFAP food box program and TEFAP purchases. And, provides an opening for other partners already providing dairy and protein – such as Zoetis, MilkPEP, Christensen Farms and Chobani – to play an even larger role.
“We saw a major opportunity to support the need for refrigeration but also the need to keep those units stocked. That’s how our ‘Fill the Fridge’ initiative was born," said Jared Shriver, senior vice president, U.S. Cattle, Zoetis. “It’s been so well received that it’s now expanded beyond Zoetis, with suppliers and customers participating.” This work also linked into the MilkPEP, which runs The Great American Milk Drive, a program designed to get more milk into Feed America food banks. Chobani and Christensen Farms also joined the effort, contributing in-kind products, such as high quality yogurt and pork, which consumers always welcome.
The Kooler Kids initiative started by supporting food banks in 10 U.S. locations, but seeing as community organizations run many food banks, it is essential that other companies with good relationships within their local communities get involved. They can do this by joining DFA, Zoetis, Balchem, MilkPEP, Chobani and Christensen Farms in this philanthropic effort.
“This is really a grassroots effort. We are looking for committed partners who can make those connections within their local communities to assess where refrigeration is needed and/or access to more fresh, perishable food items,” said Scott Sorrell, Balchem Corp.’s director of global marketing.
“There are many ways to participate, such as through cash support, ‘in kind’ products, employee matching and even time and fundraising within the local community. The main thing is to get involved!”
Addressing growing food insecurity in the United States is all of our responsibilities. For those in the industry looking to get involved or learn more about this Kool initiative, visit Balchem’s website or see this brochure. Contact ANH.Marketing@Balchem.com for more information.