Even before launching Northerly, I knew two things: that I wanted to climb the 7 Summits, and that I wanted to find a creative way to raise awareness about hunger. The Climb and Give Program was the natural fusion of those two goals. Having now completed three of seven summits and one of three food donations, I can say one thing with certainty: both are equally difficult to plan. And both are equally satisfying to complete.

First food donation to the world’s first food bank

From the start, I knew I wanted to partner with St. Mary’s Food Bank in Scottsdale, Arizona. Not only are they the world’s first food bank, but they’re also a member of Feeding America. That makes them part of a nationwide hunger-relief network. St. Mary’s serves nine out of Arizona’s fifteen counties, and I admire their mission to promote self-sufficiency, collaboration, advocacy, and education.

I couldn’t have asked for better weather on the morning of the drop. With a high of 71 and just enough clouds in the sky to keep the sun out of our eyes, it was a perfect day to do some social good. I pulled into the warehouse dock with 11,103 pounds of farm-fresh rolled oats at just after 9 o’clock that morning. While everything seemed quiet on the outside, the inside was like a beehive of activity.

St. Mary’s runs on volunteer power. With the support of volunteers—both employees from local businesses and individuals sharing their free time—they’re able to provide 250,000 meals daily, six days a week. Whether they’re packing emergency food boxes, distributing food on-site, or working in the Kids Cafe, their volunteers get it done.

Luckily, at the warehouse, we had volunteers and forklifts. So my team just got an arm workout loading the truck!

The warehouse at St. Mary’s is where the behind-the-scenes magic happens. There are mountains of nonperishable food waiting to be distributed to local partners, packed into emergency food kits, or distributed to the folks who visit St. Mary’s. It was pretty incredible to see the palettes of shelf-stable foods waiting to be distributed to members of the community. Even more incredible—for me, as a farmer—was getting to add the oats I’ve grown, harvested, and processed to the stockpile.

Meeting with the leaders in hunger relief

After so many months of coordinating, planning, and trying to iron out details, it was also a pleasure to meet Lisa Notaro, the Fundraising Executive at St. Mary’s Food Bank. The photo op for the Certificate of Donation was exciting. But it was even more exciting to connect with a hunger relief professional who is passionate about the role farmers can play in ending food insecurity.

I also had a chance to talk to Tom Kertis, the CEO of St. Mary’s Food Bank. He had some great questions about the relationship between my life as a farmer and my life as a mountaineer. I enjoyed getting to share my experiences climbing the 7 Summits, as well as my love for the outdoors.

Next steps in ending hunger

During this food donation, we delivered 11,103 pounds of rolled oats—the combined altitudes of Aconcagua, Denali, and Vinson Massif. That adds up to about 5,552 bags and over 59,000 servings of rolled oats. If you’ve followed my journey for a while, you know that I apply science and data to everything I undertake. So, of course, I was taking notes and brainstorming ways to make the next drop even more efficient.

For now, I’m shifting my attention to my mid-May bid for Everest’s summit. As the tallest mountain in the world, Everest will add 29,035 servings to my second food drop total—my first food donation to United Food Bank.

Thank you to the volunteers, friends, and family who made this donation possible. Just like the climbs themselves, I couldn’t pull it off without a team I’d trust with my life. Now, let’s get out there and keep advocating For the Grainer Good.

sustainable rolled oats
sustainable rolled oats
sustainable rolled oats
sustainable rolled oats
sustainable rolled oats