If you ask Hank Klassen of Southeast Helping Hands if he's 'Got Milk', his reply will likely be: 'not nearly enough'.
Klassen is getting ready to take on Winnipeg Harvest over his dairy shortage after claiming the provincial food bank organization is keeping most of the supply for itself.
Dairy Producers in the area donate their excess milk to Winnipeg Harvest, who are then responsible for distributing it amongst the rural food banks. But Klassen says that's not happening.
"He (Wpg Harvest Executive Director David Northcott) is keeping 95% and divying up the 5% between the rural food banks. I want to eliminate that. I want to discuss that with our producers here."
Klassen says it makes no sense that more of the dairy is not kept in this part of the province.
"We produce 80% of the milk in our part of the country here so, the challenge is going to be there."
But Northcott says Klassen has his figures wrong and there is actually a significant percentage of the excess supply that is distributed rurally.
"Overall, we're looking at probably about 20% of the milk product that is produced for low-income and hungry families going back into the rural community. It doesn't always come in the form of 3% milk. It's processed and handled and put into cheese products."
Northcott figures about 16,000kg of what they receive from producers is processed into 3% milk. He says 8% of that (1280kg) is then shipped out to the rural food banks. As for cheese, he says another 16,000kg of producer surplus goes to Bothwell and they turn it into cheese products. Of that, he estimates 35% (5600kg) then goes out to rural communities.
When asked about the uneven distribution, Northcott says the system they use is based on ratios and percentages.
"Winnipeg Harvest in Winnipeg handles probably about 90% of the food bank activity in the province. So, with that overall piece, there is a food-sharing system we have that's based on the percentage of the population your community's in and from the percentage of the population and the volume of need - and then we share food that way."
He explains this system prevents 'side deals' with producers and ensures all rural food banks are receiving equal portions. Northcott gives credit to Klassen and the community saying that thankfully, this area of the province is usually well taken care of in terms of food and supplies for its food bank.
Unfortunately, any side deals made with local producers will have to go through Winnipeg Harvest according to Northcott. That is where the fight lies for Klassen.
What Winnipeg Harvest doesn't have a say over though is the donations from local citizens. According to Klassen, if everyone in Steinbach donated a carton of milk to Southeast Helping Hands, Harvest cannot touch it. It's only surplus product from suppliers that are under their jurisdiction.