From Pallet to Pantry: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Healthy Food Procurement
To efficiently move all the healthy food from our warehouse and into the hands of children, families and individuals in need, Kyle Buehner is hard at work! As the Food Procurement Manager at Hunger Task Force, Kyle develops and leads a strategic approach to the agency’s food procurement, assuring an array of healthy foods are offered to our network of food pantries, meal sites and homeless shelters. He provides strategic analysis of inventory supplies, forecasts future food needs and actively solicits food producers and farmers for sustainable sources of healthy foods. Each week Kyle reviews our inventory and provides a menu to our network to order from with a variety of healthy, culturally appropriate foods.
“Crafting the weekly menu involves striking a careful balance between meeting the cravings of our network partners and making sure we’re providing food at the right time in the right amounts to ensure peak freshness,” said Kyle.
You can be assured that the food Kyle sources, stores and shares is of the utmost quality and promotes health for our community in need. At Hunger Task Force, we’re proud to hold the unique distinction of being the only MyPlate food bank in the nation. Guided by this USDA model, we champion inclusive and balanced nutrition for everyone. MyPlate emphasizes five key food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein sources and dairy. We translate this framework into stocking our expansive 120,000 sq. ft. warehouse with an array of nourishing choices.
Kyle also oversees Hunger Task Force’s grant with the USDA. Through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), Hunger Task Force receives a quarterly budget to purchase healthy items to distribute to our network partners. By partnering with government agencies such as Hunger Task Force, the USDA, through the TEFAP program, plays a crucial role in stabilizing food industries nationwide, distributing surplus commodities and essentials to address hunger in communities confronting economic challenges. These items include the fruit in 100% juice, low sodium canned vegetables, whole wheat grains, lean canned proteins and low-fat dairy products that follow the MyPlate model. The TEFAP food Hunger Task Force orders through the USDA represents 72% of the food provided to our partner network.
Kyle plays a pivotal role in expanding the weekly menu provided to our network using the TEFAP foods as a baseline. He also partners with Wisconsin farmers and food producers to secure healthy items in bulk to feed people today while supporting the local economy and vital Wisconsin industries. For example, Hunger Task Force buys hams in bulk – for busy holiday seasons like Easter and Christmas –from Badger Ham, a family-owned, small food manufacturer here in Milwaukee. Because of our ongoing support of the local business, Badger Ham donates products when the company can and Kyle then offers the donated food items to our network partners on the weekly menu.
This year marks a new initiative as Kyle, with the support of the Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA) funding, will collaborate with eight local farmers to enhance our network’s access to additional produce not currently grown on the Hunger Task Force Farm. In addition to The Farm’s current contribution of 4% of our distributed food, the LFPA funding and Kyle’s efforts will further increase the quantity of fresh food available to local families. Through the LFPA program, Hunger Task Force will have the capability to distribute onions, carrots, potatoes, yard-long beans, bitter melon, and Thai eggplant to our partner network. Additionally, the funding will be utilized for procuring salmon from Superior Fresh and meat from Wisconsin Grassfed Beef.
“My job is like one big puzzle. I leverage multiple food sources to create one delicious offering to feed our neighbors in need,” adds Kyle.
To further illustrate the impact Kyle has on our operations, he managed the distribution of nearly 9.8 million pounds of food in 2023 alone. With Kyle’s leadership and efficient warehouse operations paving the way, Hunger Task Force is closer to achieving its vision of a Milwaukee where no one goes hungry, and everyone has access to healthy, nutritious food with dignity.