‘It is the right thing to do’: Campus mill set to reopen in order to donate flour to people in need

(Photo Courtesy of Patrick Hackenberg)

The department of grain science and industry plans to operate the Hal Ross Flour Mill starting June 18 and donate the flour produced to the community.

The Hal Ross Flour Mill sits north of the Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Agriculture Road, and is a long standing but often overlooked landmark on the Kansas State campus.

The mill is run by faculty and students within the department of grain science and industry. Gordon Smith, professor and department head, is one of the individuals who runs the facility. Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, Smith and his colleagues put their heads together to establish a way in which their department could use their resources to help others.

As someone in the business of making food for people, Smith was most alarmed by the fact that some stores were so poorly stocked that people were not even able to buy flour.

“It didn’t take a rocket scientist to look around and say ‘OK, we have a flour mill, we have the ability to run the flour mill with very few people,’” Smith said. “We have the people who can run the mill, we have local farmers and the Kansas Wheat Commission who can help us get wheat donated. So we went to the President, the Provost and the dean, and said ‘We have this asset, we would love to use it.’”

The department had originally hoped to run the mill and get out the donations in mid-March, but were concerned that an incident or injury at the mill could add more stress to the healthcare system.

“We agreed it was a great idea, but that we would wait until it was clear that there was less pressure on the healthcare system,” Smith said. “So two weeks ago I went back to the leadership at K-State because Riley County had said that there was less stress on the healthcare system. That’s when we got the green light.”

The mill will be run by four professors, along with Smith himself. The flour produced will be given out purely on a donation basis in an effort to simply give back to the community.

“We will donate in three ways, Smith said. “First, to local consumers. We will pass it out at the mill and put a 10 pound bag of flour in their car. We will donate to the local food bank, and if we have a bunch of leftovers that we couldn’t give to local consumers and that we couldn’t give to the local food bank, we will give that to the Kansas food bank.”

The department of grain science and industry has the ability to give out flour on a donations basis because of the wheat donations they received from the Kansas Wheat Commission. Smith said the department has a long standing relationship with the Kansas Wheat Commission, and that long term relationship makes this effort possible.

People in need of flour are encouraged to stop by the Grain Science Center off of Kimball Road on Thursday, June 18. Donations will be handed out from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m..

“[We are] really trying to help the local community because it is the right thing to do with the assets and talents that we have,” said Smith. “This is just an opportunity to take our expertise and give back in a time where it seems to be appropriate.”