Fighting Hunger Just Got Harder

Who in the Midwest wasn’t tired of the heavy rainfalls, cold temperatures and dreary days that plagued the region this past spring? For farmers whose livelihood depends on the cooperation of Mother Nature when planting crops, this year was one of the worst on record. Standing water, heavy rains and colder than normal temperatures contributed to delayed planting. In some instances, farmers even had to make difficult decisions and forgo planting some crops altogether.

Recently, Gleaners’ President and CEO, Gerry Brisson, and Food Council of Michigan Executive Director, Dr. Phil Knight, sat down with guests on the front lines of this farming crisis during their weekly Food First podcast. Jeannie Igle, a 4th generation farmer at Hawkins Homestead in Ingham County shared an insider’s perspective. “This has been a spring like we’ve never seen before. We are normally done planting by Memorial Day – this year it’s been plant a day here, plant a day there. We’re planting in fields where we’d normally wait a few days for optimal planting time. If we get a break, the feeling is, let’s get something in the ground. We’re now a month behind.” The ramifications are significant. “The yields are going to be down. We’re going to have more problems with insects and disease. We’re going to have problems fertilizing it,” explained Igle.

What farmers are experiencing in the fields is already impacting availability. “We lead the nation in several categories including asparagus, black beans, squash, cranberries and Niagara grapes,” explains Dr. Knight.

With supply limited, consumers are facing a spike in prices on fresh produce in grocery stores. Gleaners is also seeing prices rise, but on a much larger scale. In 2018 alone, of the approximately 43 million pounds of food distributed to our clients, more than 18 million pounds (43 percent) was fresh produce. Milk, eggs, lean protein, whole grains as well as fresh produce are part of a larger strategy to provide Gleaners’ clients, especially children, with the nutritious foods needed to thrive and be healthy.

Food Dollars Will Not go as Far

So what will this mean for Gleaners and the people it serves moving forward? To put it simply, our food dollars will not go nearly as far. Gleaners’ food procurement team is already seeking produce from farms in areas of the country not hit as hard as the Midwest. Naturally, the further food travels, the more expensive it becomes. Travel to the southernmost states with higher yields will equal six times the usual cost to transport fresh produce in the months ahead.

The impact of this farming crises is far-reaching. Crops like corn and soy are also used to feed dairy and cattle livestock, which will impact the cost of milk and dairy. Though it is one of the most requested items at Gleaners, milk is rarely donated and has to be purchased. By leveraging the power of partner relationships like the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, Gleaners is able to stretch their buying power and distribution. In 2018 alone, Gleaners provided 150,000 gallons of milk to its clients. This equates to approximately 2,320 people, including children, receiving three servings of milk per day, 365 days of the year.

Your Help is Needed Now

Make a gift today at the link below.

Fighting hunger is never easy. But the farm crisis plaguing the Midwest is making it extremely difficult to provide our hungry neighbors with the same fresh produce we have in the past. By making a monetary donation, you will help offset rising costs. As a reminder, with every dollar you donate, 93 cents will go directly to feed our hungry neighbors.