Closing the Hunger Gap: Norm Monsen Connects Wisconsin Farms to Vulnerable Communities through Dairy Recovery Program
50 Faces. 50 Stories. 50 Years of Fighting Hunger.
Hunger Task Force is proud to be Milwaukee’s only Free & Local food bank and Wisconsin’s anti-hunger leader. In celebration of our 50th Anniversary, Hunger Task Force is highlighting “50 Faces of Ending Hunger,” honoring the anti-hunger heroes who champion Free & Local and support our mission to end hunger.
Norm Monsen, Dairy Economic Development Consultant at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), is a champion for Wisconsin’s dairy industry and was a critical partner to Hunger Task Force during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fortifying a coalition between DATCP, the Wisconsin dairy industry and Hunger Task Force, his leadership helped address logistical disruptions in the dairy industry, facilitate the Dairy Recovery Program and prevent massive waste – exemplifying his commitment to both farmers and the community.
Raised on a family farm in Stoughton, Wisconsin, Norm brings experience as a dairy farmer to his 26-year career at DATCP. “We had the red barn with 40 cows and a bunch of kids running around,” recalls Norm. “I always say I’m a farmer first.”
Norm’s role at DATCP and work as a liaison to the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, involves providing guidance to Wisconsin’s dairy industry, offering support from major players to individual farmers. His commitment to addressing the needs of both farmers and those facing hunger is exemplified through his collaboration with Hunger Task Force during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges to Wisconsin’s dairy industry, with logistical disruptions affecting food production and distribution. “During the COVID pandemic, Wisconsin was seeing record production of milk by our farmers,” says Norm. “But, because of labor disruptions and the impact to logistics at that time, moving milk and products around became near impossible.”
Through the Dairy Recovery Program, which purchased surplus milk and dairy products from struggling farmers and redirected them to food banks and community organizations serving individuals experiencing hunger, Hunger Task Force purchased millions of pounds of milk, cheese and yogurt that would have otherwise gone to waste. This not only provided crucial food assistance to families in need, but also helped stabilize the dairy industry in Wisconsin. Norm played a fundamental role in facilitating the partnership between Wisconsin’s dairy industry and Hunger Task Force.
Norm established Hunger Task Force as a vital resource for the state, directly supporting farmers facing economic strain and families experiencing hunger. “Hunger Task Force is a fixture in rural Wisconsin,” Norm says proudly. “Word spreads among farmers and people are so grateful for all of Hunger Task Force’s assistance during those tough years.”
Driven by Norm’s commitment to collaboration, the Dairy Recovery Program illuminated the strength of partnerships in tackling intricate challenges. This model offered immediate relief to farmers and food-insecure families alike, while paving the way for future collaborations and innovative solutions to food insecurity.
“Everybody has a right to good food, no matter where you come from,” says Norm. “Partnering with Hunger Task Force on the Dairy Recovery Program is one of the highlights of my career.”