Farm to Foodbank Gets Funding Increase, 12-Month Extension

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Michelle Phillips

DANE COUNTY–Residents in Dane County that have relied on pantries for food and farmers who have been providing fresh, local produce will benefit from an extension of the Farm to Foodbank program, which started nearly a year ago in response to the pandemic. The program, which is managed through Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, will add $10 million dollars and 12 months to the program, County Executive Joe Parisi said at a press conference Monday. 

“This partnership recognizes that as we navigate the final phases of this difficult year gone by, recovery won't come as quickly for some and there are basic needs to be met for many families in the months ahead,” Parisi said. “Few things done in the course of the past year rival the success we have seen by linking Second Harvest with our local farmers. These dollars will not only help keep people fed but also ensure markets remain as our local growers bounce back from this pandemic as well.”

The county will use federal pandemic aid that was recently approved by Congress to fund the program, which has distributed three million pounds of food to date. The initial program began with $8 million and $4 million more added in December 2020.

Michelle Orge, President and CEO of Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin said, “This funding has been an important part of our overall strategy to bring enough nutritious food to those in our community who don't always know where their next meal will come from. The economic recovery time will be long for many, and this extension of funding is critical as we continue to help Dane County residents and farmers.”

Mount Horeb Farmer Scott Williams, who owns Garden to Be and manages a coalition of area farmers who provide food for the program said farmers are grateful for the partnership. He said when the program began there were a lot of questions about the growing season and farmers had already begun planting for the coming season. He noted that farmers lost business from restaurants, and the future of farmers’ markets up in the air at that time. 

“It helped relieve the uncertainty we were all feeling,” he said. “Farming is challenging, and the pandemic increased those challenges.”

Parisi said the Farm to Foodbank program was quickly implemented, “This is one of those examples of building the airplane in flight,” he stated. 

“Well after the pandemic, there will still be people who need help with food, who will need help with rent,” Parisi continued.

Orge said that Second Harvest is hoping to continue a relationship with farmers after the pandemic, and before the Farm to Foodbank program the organization wanted to work more with local farms but had difficulty sourcing food.

“I believe out opportunities have increased beyond this program. Even if we don’t have this generous funding, I think the program will continue. We’re excited about that,” Orge said.

Since the pandemic began, Second Harvest has sourced food from more than two dozen Dane County farmers and producers, as well as other providers for products that could not be sourced within the county.

“The story that was written is also about this community coming together. It really shows what people in Dane County are made of and what we can do,” Parisi concluded.

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