By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
Land O'Lakes has donated 40,000 pounds of macaroni and cheese to The Idaho Foodbank in Boise.
The donation, on Jan. 9, is Land O'Lakes 49th donation in its First Run program, which quarterly donates truckloads of fresh product made specifically for food banks to help alleviate hunger nationwide.
The donation of macaroni and cheese to the Idaho Foodbank is the equivalent of 33,333 meals or enough to feed a family of four dinner every night for almost 23 years, Land O'Lakes said.
When finances get tight, food is often where the budget gets squeezed, said Land O'Lakes Foundation Executive Director Lydia Botham.
"As a national, farmer-owned cooperative, Land O'Lakes is committed to help the growing number of people who struggle to put food on their table," she said.
Each quarter the cooperative picks areas across the country where it has members and donates food to those members' local communities, she said.
"Food banks have been so pleased with the macaroni and cheese," she said. "It's a tasty, nutritious product."
The product is made at Land O'Lakes' plants and shipped fresh, reflecting the program's name, First Run. It's the same product sold to schools for students' lunches, she said.
The macaroni and cheese comes in 5 pound units, and can provide several meals for a single family, she said.
"We are very grateful to Land O'Lakes for their generous donation of a truckload of macaroni and cheese. What a wonderful gift!" said Karen Vauk, the Foodbank's executive director.
The product is highly desirable for several reasons. It's a favorite, especially with children, and is packaged frozen in 5 pound bags, making it easy for the food bank to distribute and for families to prepare, she said.
Land O'Lakes donates 12 to 14 truckloads a year, representing 480,000 to 560,000 pounds of product annually. To date, donations to food banks across the country have totaled more than 1.5 million pounds of product
The First Run program is part of Land O'Lakes' Feeding Our Communities initiative, dedicated to helping relieve hunger locally, nationally and internationally. The company also makes direct grants to hunger initiatives, matches any of its co-ops' grants to community hunger initiatives, and partners with FFA chapters to raise produce for local food pantries.
Land O'Lakes Foundation: www.landolakesinc.com
Idaho Foodbank: www.idahofoodbank.org