SALT LAKE CITY — When the coronavirus hit hard this spring across the country, the severe interruption in the food supply chain was forcing dairy farmers, including some in Utah, to dump their milk even though people were going hungry.

Dairy West, an organization that represents dairy farmers in Idaho and Utah, stepped in with an initiative called Curds + Kindness to purchase the product from farmers, pay for its processing into cheese and other products, and make sure it gets into the hands of families in need.

Additionally, the organization is delivering grilled cheese sandwiches to front-line medical workers, and on Thursday, made a delivery of the sandwiches to employees at the Utah Food Bank.

Since the initiative started in April, more than 830 pounds of food have been delivered to organizations serving families in need.

The effort has partnered up with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food’s program called Utah’s Own, which connects residents to local agricultural producers and other business owners who market local products.

Caroline Hargraves, with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, said amid the coronavirus pandemic more and more people are wanting to get a fresh, safe source of food by buying locally.

Farmers markets are starting to get underway, and the agency has a directory on its website to further promote the “farm to table” practice where consumers can buy direct from local producers.

Sid Burgos, tour manager for the Dairy West Curds + Kindness food truck, serves lunches to employees at the Utah Food Bank in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 11, 2020. Utah’s Own, a state-funded program run by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, is partnering with the Dairy West Curds + Kindness initiative to connect surplus dairy with people at risk of hunger across Utah and Idaho. The group is spending June, National Dairy Month, celebrating front-line workers and thanking them by distributing grilled cheese sandwiches and cheese curds to employees of hospitals and clinics, food banks, and police and fire stations across the Wasatch Front. | Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Similar efforts are ongoing to connect local food with families in need given the severe disruption in the food supply chain. More than 50% of the nation’s food supply goes to restaurants, hotels and the cruise ship industry, and with that shuttered, ranchers and farmers have had nowhere to send their products.

The Utah Farm Bureau launched Farmers Feeding Utah and is raising money to buy livestock from ranchers to feed the most severely impacted people struggling from coronavirus.

In May and in June, the Utah Farm Bureau delivered live animals, packed meat and flour to the Navajo Nation in Utah. It is also organizing a delivery for Box Elder, Cache and Rich counties for later this month.