Hunger-Free Minnesota Announces Deliveries of More than 600,000 Pounds of Surplus Sweet Corn through New Pilot Program

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Cargill, General Mills, SUPERVALU and Seneca Foods Corporation partnered to keep surplus corn from going to waste.

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Hunger Free Minnesota

Every year, more than 210 million pounds of sweet corn, potatoes, and peas go unharvested in Minnesota. This is a tremendous source of nutritious food that is essential to feeding the nearly 600,000 Minnesotans who are hungry in our state.

Hunger-Free Minnesota (http://www.hungerfreemn.org) announced that a unique pilot program is responsible for the harvesting and delivery of 600,000 pounds of surplus sweet corn to emergency hunger-relief organizations in ten states. The Hunger-Free Minnesota pilot project included multiple partners active in the supply chain efforts to launch the first-of-its- kind agricultural surplus initiative in Minnesota. The pilot partners working together include Cargill, General Mills, Seneca Foods Corporation, SUPERVALU Inc., and partner food banks with the distribution team led by Second Harvest Heartland.

The pilot included key players throughout the supply chain. For example, General Mills provided strategic supply chain expertise, deep industry knowledge and access to others who could play a critical role in surplus crop recovery.

“We are thrilled to see the results of this partnership in action,” said Ellie Lucas, chief campaign officer for Hunger-Free Minnesota. “We are the breadbasket of the world; there is no reason that produce should go to waste because there is no system in place to recover it. The work and commitment of our partners in this agricultural recovery effort is a major step forward to fight hunger in our state. We know that this pilot will lay the foundation to develop a model that can be replicated nationally.”

Because of months of logistical planning, the group was ready when a call came in that hundreds of thousands of pounds of sweet corn were ready to be harvested. Favorable conditions caused some corn in Western Minnesota to ripen faster than it could be processed and a surplus was created. Within 24 hours the partners mobilized to ensure that the surplus would not be wasted.

Seneca, a large corn buyer and processor, made it possible to immediately harvest and transport the ripe corn from multiple fields in Renville County, west of the Twin Cities, the evening of September 4, just after Labor Day. The fresh sweet corn was delivered just before dawn to a concrete slab that had been cleared for it at a Cargill grain storage facility in Savage, Minn. That’s where the corn was dropped in bulk – more than 100,000 pounds on the first day alone. A team of Cargill volunteers assembled cartons and spent much of the day bulk-packing the corn for shipment by refrigerated truck to the first drop points at Emergency Food Network (EFN) in New Hope and Second Harvest Heartland in Maplewood, Minn. SUPERVALU provided the refrigerated trucks to immediately cool and store the corn to keep the food’s nutritional content intact as it moved through the system to reach the consumer.

Said Seneca spokesperson Jon Brekken, vice president of western vegetable operations, “This was an excellent solution to the problem of too much corn ripening more quickly than it could be processed. Through our participation in this pilot, Seneca was able to quickly deploy our resources so that the fresh corn could be delivered to a waiting packer with cold storage trucks ready to go. Instead of going unharvested, this corn is now providing supplemental fresh and nutritious food for thousands of families who don’t have enough to eat and don’t always have access to fresh produce.”

“This pilot showed us that with the right partners, we can move very quickly to harvest and deliver nutritious produce to those who are hungry,” said Lucas. “Every year, more than 210 million pounds of sweet corn, potatoes, and peas go unharvested in Minnesota. This is a tremendous source of nutritious food that is essential to feeding the nearly 600,000 Minnesotans who are hungry in our state.”

Food Deliveries to Ten States
The approximately 600,000 pounds of sweet corn from the pilot project was absorbed by the emergency food system with every food bank in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota receiving corn. Due to weather conditions and processing schedules surplus sweet corn was also delivered to food banks in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona and Georgia.

“We are grateful to all of the participants that played a key role in this endeavor,” said Lucas. “It’s remarkable what can be done when our corporate community lends a hand. They step up and things happen. It’s a proud time for this state.”

About Hunger-Free Minnesota
Hunger-Free Minnesota is a three-year campaign to close the 100 million missing-meal gap in Minnesota. Among its partners and supporters are community leaders and citizens, nonprofit agencies and organizations, food banks, food shelves, and corporations including General Mills, Cargill, UnitedHealth Group, Hormel Foods, Land O’Lakes, and others. Hunger-Free Minnesota’s strategic action plan focuses on emergency food system capacity, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and child hunger and nutrition. The campaign encourages individuals and organizations to “Fight Hunger Where You Live.” More information is available at http://www.hungerfreemn.org.

About the Agricultural Surplus Initiative
To increase the capture of surplus crops from Minnesota farms and processing companies, Hunger-Free Minnesota has undertaken an Agricultural Surplus Initiative, with the goal of obtaining an additional 10.4 million meals by 2014 and distributing them to Minnesotans in need. Made possible by a two-year, $1 million grant from Cargill, the initiative brings together a cross-sector workgroup to find long-term solutions toward capturing and distributing agricultural surplus from Minnesota growers and processors.

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Christine Tsang
Henry Schafer
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