Dairymen and milk processors have launched a campaign to get more milk on the tables of food-insecure Americans.
Launched in early April, the Great American Milk Drive makes it easy for consumers to donate milk to food banks across the U.S.
The National Dairy Council, funded by dairy farmers, and the Milk Processors Education Program (MilkPep) have teamed up with Feeding America, the largest network of food banks in the U.S., in this first-ever nationwide program to encourage consumers to donate milk to hungry families.
Milk is the top food requested by Feeding America’s more than 200 member food banks, but food banks can’t meet the demand because it is rarely donated, MilkPep and Dairy Management Inc., which manages checkoff funds, said in an open letter to the dairy industry.
The 37 million Americans served annually in the Feeding America network receive the equivalent of less than one gallon of milk per person per year, Feeding America CEO Bob Aiken, said in a press release.
But it takes 68 gallons a year to meet the recommended daily requirements, according to the organization.
It’s been an ongoing problem that hasn’t received the attention it deserves, Aiken said.
“Now we have a chance to do so much more, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Increased donations of milk means increased protein and other nutrients for our clients and their families,” he said.
For as little as $5 (minimum donation), people can donate a gallon of milk by going to
www.milklife.com/give or by texting “milk” to 27722. By entering their zip code, those donating can be sure their donation will go to their local food pantry.
Because some food banks lack the proper refrigeration storage needed to keep dairy products stocked, coupons for milk will be sent to food banks, which will distribute the coupons to recipients, primarily through their clients, such as food pantries and community kitchens.
Recipients can then use the coupons to purchase half gallon or gallon containers of white milk at retail outlets.
Later this year, people will also be able to donate at participating retailers, according to Dairy Management Inc., DMI, which manages a major portion of the dairy checkoff funding.
As of Friday morning, 33,586 gallons had been donated nationwide, with 2,616 in California, 745 in Washington, 178 in Oregon, and 100 in Idaho. Through March 25, dairy farmers and milk processors will match the number of donated gallons.
The program was launched on April 2 at New York’s City Harvest Food Bank, with nine other program events taking place in large cities across the country.
“You don’t always think about hunger unless it’s presented to you. We are in a country of excess and yet there is a tremendous amount of people who not only need food but they need good food,” said Paul Rovey DMI chairman and an Arizona dairy farmer.
The program is involving everyone in the dairy industry and magnifies the benefits and efforts that will collectively be accomplished, he said.
“It’s a great opportunity for farmers, processors, consumers, and Feeding America, he said.
The program reinforces dairy farmers’ and the industry’s commitment to providing a safe, nutritious and affordable product — produced in a sustainable way — that helps build consumer confidence, and trust leads to sales, according to DMI.