Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced Dane County will double its funding to Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin to $6 million, extending the two’s COVID-19 food partnership program through the end of October. The effort first kicked off in April, when Dane County announced $3 million would go to help Second Harvest acquire food for Dane County food pantries through the end of July. By adding an additional $3 million in funds, Dane County and Second Harvest hope to help even more Dane County residents and local food producers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are excited to extend our partnership with Second Harvest so we can continue supporting markets for our agricultural producers and make sure the shelves at Dane County food pantries remain stocked for months to come,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “This win-win partnership will allow us to continue serving Dane County residents facing food insecurity and provide support to our local farmers and growers whose produce will be ready later this summer.”
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 in turn is benefitting local farmers and growers—regardless of whether they are pork producers, milk cows, or grow fresh produce like lettuce, peas, etc. The partnership is bringing producers and consumers together to improve sales for farmers while resupplying dwindling cupboards of area food banks during this difficult time.
“Second Harvest is incredibly grateful for the extension of our contract with Dane County,” said Michelle Orge, president & CEO of Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin. “This contract extension is an acknowledgement that the increased level of hunger in Dane County as a result of the pandemic is a long-term problem that requires long-term solutions. It is an investment in the overall health of Dane County. Additionally, it represents an affirmation that the efforts of Second Harvest and our amazing network of partner agencies are working to meet the needs of those facing hunger in Dane County. Finally, it is a tremendous example of the lengths our county leadership are willing to go to help both residents and farmers who are struggling right now.”
The county initially acquired four cold storage semi-trailers to bolster the ability for Second Harvest to store more meat, dairy, and fresh produce grown and produced in Dane County. Under this 90-day, $3 million extension, Dane County and Second Harvest will continue to build upon their work to make sure Dane County residents have access to healthy, locally grown food and/or raised produce into the fall. This will greatly benefit local farmers whose produce comes into its prime in the late summer months.
“As a dairy farmer, I would like to thank the county for extending funds to support buying local dairy products and produce for Second Harvest Foodbank,” said Brian Brown, a local producer from Farmers for the Upper Sugar River.
With this increase in funding and 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. Members of Dane County’s food pantry network report that need remains incredibly high and is likely to do so for months to come. United Way 211 made over 3,600 food pantry referrals between March 1 and May 31—nearly triple the number of referrals made during the same time period last year. According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Dane County’s unemployment is near 11 percent.
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 130 shifts for volunteers so far, with nearly 1,900 volunteer slots being filled. Thanks to the support of its volunteers and community partners, Second Harvest is distributing 65% more food in Dane County than during this same time period last year. Those interested in volunteering at Second Harvest can visit www.SecondHarvestMadison.org/Volunteer to learn more.