The road to ending hunger in Michigan starts with a 53-foot semi-trailer, and milk — 5,000 gallons at a time, to be exact.
At least, that’s what Robert Barrigar thinks.
“After a brainstorming session that started last November, it came out that we wanted to tackle hunger in Michigan,” said Barrigar, an Alpena-based Farm Bureau Insurance agent and member of the Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan’s Agent Charitable Fund. “The idea of feeding kids, in our view, is the best way to pull families out of poverty. (It) will help them get a full belly, help (them) with their school work, (and) help them to lead more productive lives if they don’t have the stress and worry of where their next meal might come from.”
On Thursday at the Country Club of Lansing, the Agent Charitable Fund presented the new “reefer truck,” a commonly-used term for a refrigerated semi-trailer, that will carry roughly 10,000 gallons of milk funded by donations from the Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) state Young Farmer committee and a matching donation from the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM). According to a statement, each organization donated roughly $8,000 for the milk.
The refrigerated semi-trailer was donated by Monroe County Farm Bureau members Jerry Jr. and Diane Kuehnlein. ACF proceeds covered material costs for wrapping the semi-trailer, while Omega Electric & Sign Company, of Alpena donated the labor for completing work on the project. The trailer was delivered by Sumerix Farms of Lachine, operated by Huron Shores County Farm Bureau member Larry Sumerix.
“(Phil Knight of the Food Bank Council) came up with the idea of capturing flash frozen produce and (then) deliver it to schools and food banks around the state of Michigan,” said Barrigar, adding that the milk is already available to transport to pantries and food banks. “He needed refrigerated trucks, (and) this is the first one we got on the road.”
According to Dr. Phil Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan, there is a network of at least 3,000 food pantries and seven Feeding America food banks in Michigan. To have milk as a product for these pantries will fill a big need, Knight said.
“Milk is the most requested item at any pantry across the state,” he said. “People want milk; they need milk. It’s pretty simple for a mom or dad that’s in a rush to work to pour some milk on cereal, and the kids are good for school. It’s a great partnership between the Michigan Farm Bureau, Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan, the Food Bank Council and UDIM that’s going to make a tremendous difference to a lot of lives across the state.”
Nathan Clarke, chair of the MFB state Young Farmer committee, a program that develops new ag leaders, said the project “was a good way for Young Farmers to tie in with the new Agent Charitable Fund and really bring families and companies together (to) help end hunger in Michigan.”
“When we heard the Agent Charitable Fund was donating a trailer, we felt that it would be good to fill that trailer with something,” Clarke said. “We thought it would be a really good idea to fill that trailer with Michigan milk.”
The Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan Agent Charitable Fund is a donor advised fund within the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture. It serves as a fund for Farm Bureau agents, clients and partners to contribute to charitable causes throughout Michigan. The fund grants monies to provide food, build agriculture awareness, educate and help citizens throughout the state. To learn more about the Agent Charitable Fund, visit endhungerinmichigan.org.