ST. ALBANS — One hundred and twenty half-gallon jugs of milk were donated to Northwest Family Foods (NFF) on Tuesday thanks to Cargill Animal Nutrition and Cardinal Logistics.

It was all a part of a new social media trend dubbed the “10 gallon challenge” aimed at benefiting both dairy farmers and families in need. Participation is simple, individuals are challenged to head to their grocery store, buy ten gallons of milk and donate it to their local food pantry. But Cargill took it one step further.

The feed and production supply chain challenged all of its mills in the country to participate.

“We took the idea and ran with it, and we were able to raise $687 along with Cardinal Logistics’ help and all our production and office employees,” Adam McBrien, plant manager at the Swanton location said.

The milk challenge and donation was a way to give back not only to the community, but to struggling dairy farmers. As soon as McBrien found out about the challenge, he reached out to the St. Albans Coop to make sure all the purchased donations came from local dairy farmers.

“What’s really cool is that it’s a closed loop almost. We get the grain, we give it to the farmers, they give the milk to the co-op, the co-op sells it to people, and it’s just a running cycle. That’s the biggest thing, we used local milk and local farmers to make this happen,” McBrien said.

Representatives from all three organizations showed up at NFF on Wednesday to deliver the milk.

“It’s a little supply chain right here,”  said Daniel Swedo, operations manager at Cardinal Logistics.

That supply chain came together to make a difference during one of the biggest times of need for the food shelf.

As the temperatures drop, heating bills go up and the holidays arrive the number of people visiting the food shelf multiplies, according to Toni Auriemma, food shelf coordinator at NFF.

“By the end of the week, this will easily be gone,” Auriemma said of the 120 jugs of milk.

How to help

NFF serves community members throughout Franklin and Grand Isle counties. There are several ways to help NFF help others.

Now through Dec. 31 shoppers can purchase a $10 box of food at Hannaford as part of the store’s annual charitable food drive.

The boxes are then donated to NFF. Included in the boxes are staples such as peanut butter and pasta.

In the past, Hannaford held a contest between its stores, with the store which sold the most boxes receiving an additional donation to its local food shelf. St. Albans won the contest every year.

Last year, the chain ended the contest. Auriemma said this has really affected donations with NFF only receiving 2,000 boxes in 2017.

“When the contest was running we would get twice that, so we’re hoping it will bounce back this year,,” Auriemma said.

In addition to Helping Hands boxes, the food shelf is in a great need of turkey donations. So far no one has reached out to NFF about a turkey drive, and with Thanksgiving just about three weeks away, Auriemma is getting anxious.

“I’m going to have to figure out how we’re going to get enough turkeys to hopefully give to every family who needs one,” she said.

Other items NFF  needs are breakfast cereals, canned tuna fish and chicken, beef stew, pasta sauces and children’s snacks.

There is also a need for additional volunteers to help meet the increased need. Over the past three months NFF has served 40 new families. In Grand Isle County, a new food shelf on wheels program has also been started to help serve those that might not be able to access the food pantry. Auriemma says this has added 30 more families to their list.

“That’s almost 100 new families in the last few months that we’ve had to increase our numbers to deal with,” Auriemma said. “So we’ve got to get more people working here.”

Recently the food shelf has expanded their hours on Thursday evenings until 7 p.m. Though they haven’t seen a lot of people utilizing this to receive food, it has helped other community members get involved with NFF

“The purpose was something and something good is coming out of it,” Auriemma said. “I’ve got Northwestern Medical Center here at night, the Rotary Club, the ladies at the Congregational Church. These are people who can let others know what we need, all while working on changing the stigma.”