More milk to flow to food banks
(A version of this article appears in the June 7, 2018 edition of The Farmer’s Pride)
by Ray Bowman
Doug Ackerman, CEO of The Dairy Alliance, says the average family that is food insecure only gets about a gallon of milk a year.
“The need is great,” Ackerman said. Along with the nutrition provided by drinking milk, Ackerman says it’s needed for many of the foods that are prepared at home. “One gallon of milk for a family for a year just doesn’t cut it.”
Ackerman recently joined Kentucky agriculture commissioner Ryan Quarles and dairy industry representatives in Winchester at one of the God’s Pantry distribution centers to announce steps being taken to help improve the flow of milk to needy families.
A major impediment to the provision of fluid milk in the past has been lack of storage capability for the very perishable product. The Dairy Alliance hopes to help the situation with a $30,000 grant to God’s Pantry Food Bank to provide seven milk coolers to store fresh milk for four affiliate food pantries in Winchester and Lexington-Fayette County. The grant was awarded in conjunction with The Alliance’s Milk 2 My Plate initiative and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Hunger Initiative.
The Dairy Alliance is a nonprofit funded by dairy farm families of the Southeast, whose mission is, in part, to provide the public with accurate information about dairy foods. The Atlanta-based organization serves dairy farm families in nine states; Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
In addition to assisting food insecure families, commissioner Quarles hopes the project will provide a small but much-needed boost for an industry that is currently struggling. “Our hard-working dairy farm families will get a new market for their products,” Quarles noted.
“We’ve had some great wins over the past two years with our Kentucky Hunger Initiative, but milk’s a little bit different,” the commissioner continued. “Milk is Kentucky’s official drink, but due to its perishability, it has always been difficult to develop a program to provide access to it.”
“Kentucky is blessed to have almost 600 dairy farms, and we’re always looking for additional markets. With this particular program, the dairy farmers and the processors that participate do get compensated for production costs, which allows them to provide milk to their neighbors who are less fortunate.”
Quarles said he hopes Kentucky continues to have the reputation of being on the cutting edge in dealing with the problem of food insecurity and he is happy to see that the dairy industry has a solid place in the effort to chip away at hunger in the Commonwealth.
The pilot project currently provides 60 gallons of milk a week to the food bank, but God’s Pantry CEO Michael Halligan is hoping to increase volume over time.
“God’s Pantry food banks serves Central and Eastern Kentucky where about a quarter of a million people are at risk of hunger,” Halligan stated. “This pilot program will help us initiate, build and sustain a consistent flow of milk to those in need.”