Written by Cameron Swallow, Kenosha County Food Bank Board Member 5/4/20
Tuesday May 5th 2020 is #GivingTuesdayNow, and I will observe it by pledging to be a Taker. Let me explain.
Giving Tuesday is typically the first weekday back at work after the long Thanksgiving weekend, and it feels a little strange to move it to today. But even though we may not have the holidays on the horizon, I believe that moving Giving Tuesday to address the COVID-19 crisis is a brilliant idea. It adapts an existing system to respond to a crisis, something we will need to do a lot of in the coming months. Bend, don’t break. Use what you have, change what you can.
An important system that needs to adapt by using what we have is our food supply. I am privileged to serve on the board of the new Kenosha County Food Bank, born from an alliance between UW Extension and our local food pantries. Food banks help communities address the twin problems of meeting needs and minimizing waste, and we are facing a chapter in which the problem of waste is going to be harder to solve than the problem of need. Normal supply chains have been disrupted. Massive quantities of food are flooding warehouses and rotting in fields, the result of a system that, among many challenges, has trouble repackaging for individuals the food that would normally go to restaurants and schools.
The US Department of Agriculture has instituted a new Farmers to Families program to support farmers as demand shifts; part of the federal funding package will be used to pay warehouse workers to package boxes of food, in consumer portions, to be given free to individual households. Locally, I am pleased to know that our local Wisconsin products are targeted too as our partner from Milwaukee County, Hunger Task Force, is working to redirect the flow of Wisconsin farms to Wisconsin families.
These boxes of free food will not be tied to government commodity programs that require proof of income; they will be provided both through the existing pantry system and also at other locations in a ‘trailer-to-trunk’ delivery method. They will be provided to all of us, regardless of income, in quantities that ensure that many more people are fed than can typically be fed by our food pantry system.
These new sources of free food have not arrived in Kenosha yet, but they are coming soon; and through our partnership with Gordon Food Service, we may begin to see free boxes of meat, dairy, and produce arriving within a couple of weeks. How can we as a broader community get ready to accept it on a very large scale? That’s where being a Taker comes in!
Beyond minimizing waste, just imagine the impact if thousands of people accepted the free food that pandemic disruptions will soon make available? And for Giving Tuesday, what if these same Takers use the money they saved on food purchases to contribute to non-profits or small businesses in crisis? That’s adapting an existing system for everyone’s good. Bending without breaking. Using what we have.
If you’re ready to decide to accept free food, then you have some available funds to donate today! The #GivingTuesdayNow website allows you to enter city and state to find organizations receiving donations. (https://www.givingtuesday.org/whats-happening-near-me) The United Way of Kenosha County (https://www.kenoshaunitedway.org) has links to the regional 2-1-1 relief system and a Forum for local mutual aid that they are preparing for #GivingTuesdayNow.
This year has given us the chance to do our civic duty in ways we never considered before, so watch for and take the free food! Use it before it goes to waste! For once, there is such a thing as a free lunch!
Join me and pledge to become a Taker so that we can be better, more thoughtful, and more targeted Givers for GivingTuesdayNow and beyond.