WATERLOO | A semitrailer full of one of America's favorite comfort foods was unloaded at the Northeast Iowa Food Bank on Wednesday.

Land O'Lakes donated 40,000 pounds of macaroni and cheese to the food bank. The truck was unloaded at the food bank's main distribution center and warehouse Wednesday morning.

After the donation is inventoried, it will be distributed to the food bank's member organizations in the 16 counties the nonprofit serves. The food will likely be distributed and gone within three months, said Barb Prather, executive director of the Northeast Iowa Food Bank.

"It's a good product, so it'll go pretty fast," Prather said.

Eutoni Ruff, director of the Clayton County Food Shelf, is expecting a portion to be delivered Tuesday and doesn't expect it to sit around for long.

The frozen macaroni and cheese Land O'Lakes donated is fully prepared and cooked. People will just need to heat it to eat, said A.J. Graves, community relations specialist for Land O'Lakes. Prather said that made the donation even more appealing.

"This is something that's ready, easily prepared, it's easy for families to cook," Prather said.

The ease of preparation makes the mac and cheese a popular product for Land O'Lakes' ongoing efforts to fight hunger, said Scot Janssen, Land O'Lakes board member.

"All kids like mac and cheese," Janssen added.

It also meets new school lunch standards, Graves said.

"It has whole grain, reduced fat," she said. "In a way, it's a full meal."

This was Land O'Lakes 70th truckload donation under its First Run Program. In five years of operation, First Run has distributed 2.4 million pounds of food to various agencies across the U.S.

First Run refers to the production of the food donated under the program. The food wasn't produced and packaged for retail but was specifically made for donation to help alleviate hunger.

"It's an entire company effort," said Doug Reimer, Land O'Lakes board member and member of the Land O'Lakes Foundation that coordinates First Run.

The donation comes toward the end of the school year, when food pantries see an increase in demand. Ruff said the Clayton County Food Shelf sees a jump from about 84 families a month to 150 when the school year ends. Graves said Land O'Lakes tries to time the donation to meet that rising need.

The donation was so large that had it been given before the food bank had moved to its new facility, the distribution center wouldn't have had room to store and freeze the food, Prather said. Last year, the food bank distributed more than 5 million pounds of food in its 16-county region.

General assignment reporter for the Courier

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