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Willmar Area Food Shelf seeks donations after state milk funding runs out

Dave Baron of the Willmar Area Food Shelf stocks refrigerator shelves Friday with cans of evaporated milk. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

By David Little

WILLMAR — The Willmar Area Food Shelf is seeking $14,000 in donations during the next 30 days to buy milk for needy clients after state milk funding ran out two months ago.

The Legislature had allocated funds to food banks to buy milk at a discount. Food shelves buy food including milk that is trucked here from Second Harvest Heartland, a food bank in St. Paul.

State milk funding began July 1 and the Willmar Area Food Shelf, which also serves clients at the New London office, had been buying fresh milk at the discounted cost of $3 for a case of 9 half-gallons. However, the funding ran out the first of November and the cost of buying milk is now $12 per case.

Although the higher price is still a bargain, the cost of fresh milk would increase from $287 per month to $1,164 per month, or more than $13,968 per year, and would dramatically affect the food shelf’s $60,000 annual food budget.

As a result, the food shelf is no longer buying and providing fresh milk to clients, said food shelf Executive Director Christie Kurth.

The Legislature has reconvened and may allocate money when the state’s new fiscal year begins July 1, but she doesn’t know.

“It’s very possible there could be cuts. We just don’t know,’’ said Kurth.

All money raised for the milk fund will be dedicated exclusively to the milk fund, she said.

An alternative to fresh milk had been milk from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that can be stored outside a refrigerator until it is opened. But the food shelf has not received any of that type of milk for some time.

Another option has been evaporated milk. Kurth said Second Harvest got a good deal on evaporated milk, and the food shelf has been providing two cans of evaporated milk which when mixed with equal amount of water can be used for cooking and other uses.

Kurth is hoping to raise the funds by the middle of February.

“In order to continue providing fresh milk in 2013 or until there is new legislation, the food shelf needs the $14,000 to tide us over and get us through the full year for fresh milk,’’ she said.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150