As a dairy co-op that has been around for 110 years, we tend to look at things with a long-term approach. When it comes to community enrichment, we take a collaborative approach to social impact that we hope will make a sustained difference in the future of the communities where we do business and where our employees live, work and play. Recently, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy announced Tillamook as the winner of the 2018 Community Impact Award, and we couldn’t be more humbled.
"Tillamook exemplifies devotion to their community," said Barbara O'Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. "From working to find the root cause of food insecurity to improving housing access, they are addressing large-scale issues that impact the people and the planet." Helping find solutions to hunger in our communities has long been a commitment for us here at Tillamook. In Tillamook County, 13.5 percent of the population is food insecure due to inaccessibility to wholesome food and lack of housing choices. “Too many people have to make the heart-wrenching decision to pay the rent or feed their family,” explained Sarah Beaubien, Tillamook’s senior director of stewardship. “Knowing these statistics, we wanted to be part of the solution in our community.” This past year, we engaged with leaders at the Oregon Food Bank to better understand and address underlying causes of hunger and access to nutritious foods. That collaboration led to our donation of a brand new distribution truck for the local food bank to improve their distribution capacity. We also funded a full-time position within the Oregon Food Bank to research the root causes of food insecurity issues in Tillamook County, with the goal of eventually addressing solutions at a state-wide level.
Then, to address local housing inequalities – which are often a contributor to food insecurity - we worked closely with CARE, a local agency that serves the at-risk population of Tillamook County. When CARE was at risk of losing its headquarters and therefore its ability to provide for community members, we pledged to help secure a permanent space for the organization. Our approach to community impact is multi-pronged. In 2016, we also committed $1.5 million to a new food innovation center at Oregon State University, providing an innovative space for research, testing, and teaching related to Oregon’s dairy industry. And, in an effort to educate young girls about STEM concepts, farms and food production, in 2017 a cross-functional Tillamook team collaborated with the Girl Scouts of Oregon and SW Washington to create a first-ever dairy patch in the Northwest. To strengthen partnerships, our farmer-owners and employees also regularly participate in our company’s volunteer program, Tillamook Cares. Each year we contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and product donations to nonprofits working to address food security, agricultural advocacy, and healthful youth. Still, we have ambitious plans for the future: to invest at least five percent of our profit back into the community by 2019. “Tillamook takes a unique approach to problem solving that involves collaboration with key stakeholders, identification of root causes and implementation of socially innovative solutions―an approach that has resulted in tremendous success and serves as an example for the industry,” said Pete Kent, executive director of the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council. One of our partners at the Oregon Food Bank, recently gave us a compliment that we are very proud to repeat. He said, “They push us to find solutions to have as much impact as possible. They are not giving away money just to improve their brand rating. They really are passionate about making a difference in Oregon.”
Learn more about our commitment to Enriched Communities here.