dairy donations

We All Scream for Ice Cream

Alums Integral to Success of Operation Community Impact

Ice cream is one of life’s simple joys and something every age group enjoys. It’s also a rare treat for those relying on food pantries for their meals—and one they enjoyed in May through the efforts of our 4-H alumni and UConn Extension’s Operation Community Impact.

Meg (Eberly) Uricchio

Meg Uricchio stands in front of a case of Hood ice creamMeg Uricchio was a member and president of Hartford County’s Granby 4-H Club in her youth. “I started showing goats and transitioned to dairy. I also had photography, cooking, woodworking, and poultry projects.”

She got involved with the Merry Moo-ers 4-H Club while an undergraduate at UConn and still provides 4-H members with heifers to lease for their projects. Meg is an active volunteer for various Hartford County 4-H initiatives, including the fair and the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm.

“I didn’t know it at the time, but the amount of responsibility that 4-H instills in you is very important for youth members,” Meg says. “4-H teaches you about putting someone other than yourself first. I loved the dedication that the volunteers have and am pleased to give back to the program.”

Meg works for HP Hood, Inc. and secured the donation of a tractor trailer load with 33 pallets of ice cream for Operation Community Impact. HP

Hood, Inc. has a long history of giving back to the communities surrounding its 11 plants nationwide.

Each donation for Operation Community Impact is a team effort— and the ice cream was no exception. “Jen Cushman, the Hartford County 4-H Educator, was instrumental in securing the donation,” Meg says. “Bill Davenport, the Litchfield County 4-H Educator, had a neighbor with the refrigerated trailer for 4-H to use. Jen took care of the logistics of where the donation would go, and I gathered the product and made sure it got loaded.”

The refrigerated trailer was donated by O & G Industries of Torrington. They provided a truck, freezer trailer, and two drivers and delivered the ice cream to all the counties in the state. Tulmeadow Farm in West Simsbury was the drop off location for Hartford County, where another 4-H and CAHNR alum stepped in to facilitate the process.

From Processor to Food Pantry: Don Tuller

Don Tuller ’77 (CAHNR), owner of Tulmeadow Farm, has been actively involved with 4-H and the agricultural community for his entire life. He was one of the volunteers staining the brand-new cabins at the Hartford County 4-H Camp in Marlborough, was later a camper and then a counselor. Don was also a member of the Hartford 4-H Fair Association and served in numerous leadership positions.

He understates his ongoing service to the community, including his role in the ice cream donation from HP Hood.

“4-H runs deep in our family,” Don says. “We were the transfer spot for the ice cream from H. P. Hood, and put it into my freezer, and then all the volunteers came and picked it up. We were willing to make our facility available and unload the ice cream with our forklift. We played a small role in the process and we’re happy to help.” Food pantries in six counties received ice cream donations.

The logistics of handling frozen products is not easy—and those 33 pallets of ice cream could have been ruined if the distribution process was not correct. “We’ve used our freezer space to support other food distribution efforts too, whenever it’s needed. We’ve had ongoing adventures with food donations to Foodshare over the years.”

Tulmeadow Farm sends sweet corn and extra vegetables to Foodshare and the Simsbury Food Bank every year too. Don’s record of service extends beyond his community, he recently retired as president of Connecticut Farm Bureau Association, where he served for 12 years in that role, and as a board member for the American Farm Bureau Federation. He currently serves as the president of the Connecticut Agricultural Education Foundation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated communities throughout the world and caused untold damages. Throughout it all, the UConn 4-H program has embraced its commitment to civic engagement by addressing food insecurity and assisting families and food pantries across the state. Our alumni and volunteers continue giving back to the program and making the best better.

Article by Stacey Stearns

Making the Best Better

4-H Members Civic Engagement Initiative Has Statewide Impact

girl pulling wagon of millkFood insecurity spiked across Connecticut because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UConn 4-H team led and coordinated Operation Community Impact, a grassroots effort to help local families with food insecurity issues intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort also addresses surplus milk issues that negatively impact dairy farms in the state due to the pandemic.

The Litchfield County 4-H program selected Operation Community Impact focusing on food insecurity in the county as their theme for the year in January of 2020—the pandemic made that theme a necessity—and they focused their efforts on dairy products and organized the first milk distribution in March, and then the effort expanded statewide through our 4-H network in April.

The Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) team and others are also instrumental to the success by facilitating connections with food pantries and volunteers. Businesses and partner organizations statewide have donated refrigeration, trucks, and space to facilitate donations.

4-H youth and volunteers facilitated donation and delivery of over 200,000 pounds of dairy products—and counting. They worked with 96 food pantries in 57 towns, serving over 10,710 families. Thousands of hours of volunteer time and services are integral to the success of Operation Community Impact—and many of those volunteers are alumnus of our 4-H program and the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR).

“Over my seven years in 4-H I have been given many cool community service opportunities, but the dairy outreach community project is by far the most influential,” says Madeline Hall, a Litchfield County 4-H member. “It is a huge operation that really helps the community. It is a beautiful sight to see how utterly grateful the pantries and families receiving the milk are. I never knew how many families in Connecticut were in need. I’m so proud to be part of UConn 4-H.”

Madeline, her sister Olivia, and their mom Margaret have volunteered at all 12 donations to date. The Hall family has donated over 1,000 hours of their time to the effort. Margaret Hall has been a 4-H volunteer leader for eight years and leads the Diggity Dogs 4-H Club. She is also a co-leader and helped start the Grow Getters 4-H Horticulture Club this past year.

All eight counties received donations and had 4-H youth participate in the initiative. Litchfield and New London counties continued serving their food pantries through community initiatives that raised funds to purchase milk—and fruit in New London county—to support the local food pantries.

“It reassures me that we have a bright future ahead of us because we have these motivated, hard-working, intelligent, outgoing individuals that come up through the 4-H program,”

says Bill Davenport, the Litchfield County 4-H Educator. “We are excited to get surplus dairy products—in storage because of the pandemic—into the hands of families who are food insecure. Our actions increase awareness of the issue and encourage others to help do the same across Connecticut and the region so that we can help move more milk and dairy products out of the surplus and into the refrigerators of people who desperately need it.”

Article by Stacey Stearns