It’s a fact. Ninety-five percent of food banks report that they do not receive milk in their donations.
“New York is one of the nation’s top milk producers,” stated Beth Meyer, Vice President of Communications with the ADADC. “Yet, on average, the state’s food banks are only able to provide about one gallon of milk each year to the families they serve.”
Meyer said it has been a challenge for Feeding America to meet food banks demand for milk because of the lack of donations, since people usually donate non-perishable items.
“People don’t think of milk as something to donate to food banks,” commented dairy producer Mike Settle.
On Oct. 25, Feeding America, members of the NYS ADADC and Dairy Princess program, dairy farmers, milk processors and three Capital District Hannaford stores joined forces to raise public awareness and participate in the Great American Milk Drive, where many shoppers learned about the need for milk in local food banks and purchased milk to donate.
“The three stores Hannaford stores that are participating are having a competition,” said American Dairy Association Program Coordinator, Dawn Houppert at the event. “The store that gets the most gallons of milk donated, gets an ice cream social for their store.” Houppert said that Hannaford is “very supportive” of Feeding America and the Great American Milk Drive and is one of the grocery stores that ADADC works with.
Houppert oversees the Dairy Princess Program in New York State and parts of New Jersey and Pensylvania. “The dairy princesses are spokespersons,” explained Houppert. “At American Dairy we can’t hit the grassroots that we can get with all of the dairy princesses spread throughout the state.”
Dairy Princess Program members from Herkimer, Montgomery, Ontario, Orange, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties spread out between the three store locations to take part in the Great American Milk Drive.
NYS Alternate Dairy Princess, Lindsey McMahon was at the Colonie store greeting the public and explaining to shoppers the need for milk in the daily diet and the shortage in food banks. Her family are second generation dairy farmers at Hooskip Farm, where they milk about 120 cows and McMahon commented on the importance of the Dairy Princess Program. “The dairy princess program is definitely a very important part of agriculture in New York State,” said McMahon. “Not only do we represent the farmers of the state and all of the work they do, but we really promote the industry in general. It’s amazing how many people don’t realize how extensive and important the agriculture and dairy industry are in New York State. We really reach out to the public. Today we really want to promote the Great American Milk Drive. It’s all about helping those in need.”
Regional Food Bank of NENY representative, Erin Prendergast was also on hand to speak to shoppers and receive donations. “We service 23 counties from the Canadian border down to the New Jersey border and we serve over 1,000 non-profit agencies including food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, veterans programs — any non-profit program that needs food.” Prendergast spoke about the great shortage of milk at food banks. “We are lucky if we are able to supply one gallon of milk for families over an entire year. Only one gallon!” she stressed. “It’s a big problem.”
Prendergast commented that this was one of the first milk drives. “Now that the American Dairy and the Dairy Princesses are really involved in this, hopefully with this collaboration, this will continue to go forward and we will continue to do this every year.”
Meyer says for those who cannot make it to on-site events, you can still donate by going to www.milklife.com/give . “Anyone can buy much-needed milk and donate it for as little as $5 to a family who does not have regular access to milk,” Meyer explained. “By entering your zip code, you can ensure that the milk is delivered from the farm to a local Feeding America food bank in your community.”
A total of 482 gallons of milk was collected from the Capitol District milk drive for distribution to local food banks.