Over a year ago, when I first learned that milk was in short supply among America’s food banks, but in high demand and seldom donated, it broke my heart. Just think, the 37 million food bank clients Feeding America served in 2014, received an average of only one gallon of milk per person for the whole year!
One of the reasons for this shortfall is that many food banks lacked the infrastructure, including refrigeration space, to accept more milk. So last year National Dairy Council provided $10,000 grants to 20 Feeding America food banks across the country, which they used to purchase refrigerators, refrigerated trucks or other cooling equipment to power their systems to distribute more milk to clients fighting hunger. It worked! Food banks reported they were able to increase client access to milk by 46 percent.
Although 20 food banks have been helped with these grants, many still lack the ability to accept the milk needed to meet the demand of those in need. As more and more food banks recognize the need and work to find funding to accommodate perishable food donations, such as milk, yogurt and cheese, they will be positioned to purchase milk or accept donations from grocery stores and milk companies of unsold dairy foods. Donating milk that would otherwise not be sold is one way to not only help those in need, while also reducing food waste, a huge problem in this country.
As you know, milk is a source of nine essential nutrients, making an important nutritional contribution to food insecure households. Milk is also the No. 1 food source of three out of the four nutrients of concern identified in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: calcium, potassium and vitamin D. Though milk is considered one of the most affordable foods (nutrients per penny), many still go without it.
Stay tuned, for future posts on the food security topic as we lead up to Hunger Action Month. We also plan to give you an inside look at how individual food banks around the country have used their grant money to bring more nutrient-rich milk to food insecure people.