On Tuesday, hundreds of pounds of colby, cheddar and string cheese will head to Houston to comfort those afflicted by Hurricane Harvey the best way Wisconsinites know how.
The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board put out a call to cheesemakers from Monroe to Green Bay, asking for donations of whatever havarti, gouda and feta they could spare.
WMMB vice president of marketing communications Suzanne Fanning was delighted by the response: some 17,000 pounds of cheese and 300 pounds of butter. As of Friday afternoon, donations were still coming in.
“We thought, 'What can we do beyond sending love and prayers?'” Fanning said. “We can send Wisconsin cheese. That’s what we’re famous for.”
Large companies like Agropur in Appleton and BelGioso in Denmark as well as smaller cheesemakers at LaClare Family Creamery and Marieke Gouda have piled a refrigerated truck with a variety of dairy products.
“We’ve got 26 different cheese companies donating,” said Fanning, including Carr Valley Cheese and Sartori companies. Independent Procurement Alliance Program in Appleton is providing the truck, which marketing board employees have been loading up.
Fanning said the Houston Food Bank is excited to receive the shipment, which will be distributed to some 600 hunger relief charities.
“They were absolutely delighted, because it doesn't sound like anyone else is sending cheese,” Fanning said.
The Houston Food Bank, like Dane County’s own Second Harvest Food Bank, is part of the Feeding America network.
“There’s 202 food banks throughout the country and we all try to take care of each other in times of need like this,” said Second Harvest COO Jeff Rubbelke.
The Madison facility has already compiled 40,000 pounds of food for Houston. Rubbelke said they're waiting on a truck from the Chicago hub. Milwaukee's food hub is sending two trailers, including a load of water.
Madison’s load is “dry,” Rubbelke said, and doesn’t need refrigeration. It includes about five pallets of canned corn, large cans of green beans, and ready-to-eat meals like Chef Boyardee ravioli.
“The cans are good for one person, and worst case, it’s precooked,” Rubbelke said.
Once the product arrives in Texas, food banks there will determine where it needs to go.
“We’ve got a variety of vendors and donors out there,” said Rubbelke. “The Del Montes of the world have already ponied up trailer loads. Seneca (Foods) has ponied up product. Kelloggs has donated dozens of loads.
“People are getting in line ... it’s been a really good thing so far.”
Rubbelke said locals who want to help the thousands of Gulf Coast residents affected by Harvey can donate directly on Second Harvest’s website, as well as on the Houston Food Bank’s website.
“I know lot of people want tangible (donations) versus money,” he said. “But when you think about transportation from the northern part of the United States to the tip of the southern part of the United States, money does a lot.
“Money allows them to purchase what they need and get that trailer load instead of a hodgepodge of goods going down.”