Collaboration aims to bring awareness, support to Brainerd Area Food Shelf

A creative partnership between the Crow Wing County Dairy Association and a local food shelf has set its sights on getting fresh dairy into the hands, and refrigerators, of more families.

A creative partnership between the Crow Wing County Dairy Association and a local food shelf has set its sights on getting fresh dairy into the hands, and refrigerators, of more families.

Now the two entities are hoping the community will follow suit.

It was just two years ago when Rosanne Caughey of the Crow Wing County Dairy Association met with leaders from the Brainerd Area Food Shelf in hopes something could be done to increase dairy accessibility for all, regardless of income.

"I just can't imagine opening the refrigerator and not seeing milk in there," Caughey said. "I think it's so important."

Linda Loftis, Brainerd Area Food Shelf coordinator, said those early conversations with Caughey have had tremendous effects for the families that utilize the food shelf, as well as education for all people in the importance of dairy.


"Rosanne and myself initially discussed the idea of having the local dairy association and the Salvation Army work together to gather and share information regarding the need for a healthy selection of food and dairy products for those who use the food shelf," Loftis said. "It was perfect timing, since I am a huge promoter of having access to dairy products for our participants at the food shelf."

Loftis said use of the Brainerd Area Food Shelf tends to increase as the summer months approach, especially when school-aged children can no longer depend on school breakfast and lunch, and families rely more heavily on assistance.

"It becomes increasingly difficult for participants with families to have enough food and dairy," Loftis said, "particularly during the summer season when children are at home. Our hope is to provide information and awareness to the public that poverty and hunger strike all generations, from children on up to the elderly." With information and networking, we have hope in the statewide campaign to fight hunger."

In addition to raising awareness, cross-culturally, of the importance of integrating dairy into any diet, Caughey and the county dairy association wanted to take it one step further and supply more with milk. In 2015, the group donated 100 gallons of milk to the Brainerd Area Food Shelf. Two years later and still going strong in their partnership, both entities are encouraging the community to get involved in making a "dairy difference."

"People always think about canned goods when they donate to a food shelf," Caughey said. "But milk is such a staple that we take for granted. You think everyone has milk to drink, but they don't."

As part of their educational campaign, Caughey said she'd love to see the community step up to provide "milk money" for families in need through the Brainerd Area Food Shelf, either donating gallons of milk or the money to make a purchase possible.

Loftis said with the influx of food shelf use in the coming months, milk and other dairy products will most likely be distributed quickly to families-eliminating a common concern of products going sour while being stored.

"We really wanted to give more than just a donation," Caughey said. "We really want to plant the seed and bring awareness to the importance of consuming dairy."


"The Crow Wing County Dairy Association has become instrumental in paving the way to help the Salvation Army inform the public regarding the hunger issue in our community," Loftis said, noting this opportunity ties in with the Salvation Army's move to provide healthier and more nutritious food across the board.

"We are constantly on the move to meet the needs in our community," Loftis said. "Each day is a new challenge. Food shelf organizations are continually working to achieve funding, grants, new programs and seeking advocacy with lawmakers to help in making this a reality."

Loftis also said this campaign comes at a time when the Salvation Army is changing how it meets needs while staying on budget.

"To accomplish our goals, the food shelf has moved to 'choice shopping' where participants have the freedom to pick from that is available rather than receive a box filled with food items that may not use or can't use. This is not only good for the participants, but much more cost effective, freeing up dollars to purchase additional food items making for an even larger selection."

Both women agree, the partnership between the Dairy Association and the Salvation Army is a prime example of thinking outside the box to provide healthy options for families who depend on the food shelf.

"There is an increasing awareness that hunger is not limited to a specific area or group," Loftis said. "It's a critical national problem that we must open our eyes and heart to find solutions."

Those interested in donation milk or "milk money" are encouraged to contact the Salvation Army at 218-829-1120 or mail a tax-deductible check to 208 South Fifth St., Brainerd, MN 56401.

The Brainerd Area Food Shelf is located at the Salvation Army in Brainerd and is open between 1-3 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and mornings by appointment. Individuals and families with an emergency situation are typically assisted the same day. For more information, visit

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