Food shelf receives donated fridge

Published 8:00 pm Thursday, July 2, 2020

On April 27, a commercial refrigerator was delivered to Alden Area Food Shelf as part of the Midwest Dairy Undeniably Dairy Community Relief Grant, according to a press release. The donation reflects the generosity of both Midwest Dairy and supportive members within the Alden community, the release stated, and Alden Area Food Shelf is the beneficiary of the adage “it takes a village,” and sometimes a bit more.

Alden Area Food Shelf is a nonprofit organization that collects, safely stores and distributes perishable and shelf-stable groceries directly to low-income and food-insecure members of the community. The food shelf has used a standard residential refrigerator to store perishable items since its inception in 2003. Over the past 17 years, attempts have been made to increase the quantities of dairy and fresh produce for the families it serves. The dilemma needed to be addressed on two fronts, quantities of perishables and at the ability to store it safely. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, food rescue events from suppliers and distributors have increased availability of these items. However, Alden Area Food Shelf was unable to leverage the additional food donations until it received the commercial-grade refrigerator from Midwest Dairy to accommodate the supply. The long term goal of the local food shelf is to continue to provide significant dairy and fresh produce to the local families impacted by hunger.

The story of the gift almost resembles the childhood game of telephone, where each player passes a message to another, the release stated. Unlike the children’s game where the final message can sometimes become garbled, caring individuals recognized a need within the community and passed on a clear description of the worthy cause to Midwest Dairy, according to the release.

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The story begins with past dairy farmers Dan and Jenny Erickson, who continue to raise Holstein calves and maintain connections and relationships with the dairy industry. They became aware of the Midwest Dairy Undeniably Dairy Community Relief Grant, which awards commercial-grade refrigerator units to community food pantries. As a teacher at Alden-Conger School, Jenny Erickson was knowledgeable of the local backpack program and its governance by Alden Area Food Shelf. Jenny Erickson connected with the backpack program coordinator, Birgitt Langrud. Langrud verified the food shelf had significant need for additional refrigeration and had the space to accommodate a commercial unit. Next, Jenny Erickson reached out to another community member, Steph Adams, who serves on the Freeborn County Corn and Soybean board with Jenny Erickson’s husband, Dan Erickson. Adams’ parents are Peter and Karen Kasper, dairy farmers in the Owatonna area, and Karen Kasper also serves on the state Midwest Dairy board and the 10-state corporate board. Adams in turn contacted her mother, and the Kaspers submitted a grant application for Alden Food Shelf and it was accepted. Alden Area Food Shelf is the beneficiary of the real-life telephone chain of community-minded members Jenny and Dan Erickson, Langrud, Adams, Peter and Karen Kasper, and Midwest Dairy, according to the release.

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Midwest Dairy quickly pivoted its work to support communities by providing Undeniably Dairy grant funding for commercial-grade refrigeration units to local food banks in need,” Midwest Dairy stated in a press release. “With school and business closures, many local food banks need additional refrigeration to meet the high demand for dairy products for families in need. This was also an opportunity for dairy farmers to engage in their local community during this time when on-farm events and community gatherings have been canceled due to social distancing recommendations. To date, Midwest Dairy has approved 50 grant applications which will serve an estimated 55, 877 people.”