Keeping business as usual during a pandemic is no small feat for anyone, including local dairy producers. The demand for milk is down, and closures have forced some dairy plants to dump excess milk.
Local cooperative Burnett Dairy, based out of Grantsburg Wisconsin, is taking this time of uncertainty to offer support to local communities by donating cheese to food pantries, schools, and nonprofit organizations supplying free meals.
"What we really want to do is we want to make sure that we keep business as usual for the members, the dairy producers, we want to keep business as usual for our employees, and for our customers," said Dan Dowling, Burnett Dairy Cooperative CEO, and president.
Dowling said the co-op was approached by local food pantries looking for donations due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of wasting excess, Dowling said they wanted to help those who need it.
"That's where we had the idea, let's take some of this excess capacity and make fresh cheese and be able to donate it to our local communities to make a difference."
Between April 16 and April 20, over 8000 students in 19 school districts from Minnesota and Wisconsin will be receiving bags of shredded mozzarella.
Photo courtesy of the Pine City School District.
The dairy is sending out this cheese with the help of the Siren, Wis. company Chell Trucking, who is donating time and refrigerated truck space to help safely distribute the cheese to partners.
Pine City was one of the eight school districts to deliver the cheese on Thursday. Over 900 students received a two-pound bag of mozzarella, which included a recipe card to make cheese bread.
The company's goal is to donate at least 100,000 pounds of cheese to schools, food shelves, and charities within a 100-mile radius.
These donations don't just help those receiving the cheese. It also provides milk producers and workers a sense of normalcy.
"It allows us to do our part in a very difficult time," Dowling said. "It's been really remarkably rewarding the outpouring of support we've been getting from community members, our membership, and people that we've never met before. It's nothing short of amazing."