The Mideast area of DFA Dairy Farmers of America has donated over 50,000 gallons of milk and 25,000 pounds of cheddar cheese to Michigan food banks to help them meet the unprecedented need resulting from the coronavirus crisis and record high unemployment.
The offering comes as dairy farmers nationwide struggle with a decline in the commercial dairy market precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic. With schools and businesses closed, demand for milk and dairy products has decreased, leaving farmers without buyers for their supply. Instead of discarding the extra milk and cheese they have on hand, DFA farmers are helping meet the need of Michigan households who are struggling to make ends meet and put nutritious food on their tables.
“As dairy farmers, we are proud of the role we play in feeding families, and in times like these when so many are struggling, we feel passionately about doing all we can to help,” said Jerry Neyer, a dairy farmer from Shepherd, Michigan. “Food banks are always in need of dairy foods, which are less commonly donated because of how perishable they are. Initiatives like this that allow us to get our highly nutritious milk and dairy products into the hands of people who need them are essential right now. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
“The need for emergency food continues to manifest itself in the long lines of cars waiting for distributions of produce, protein and dairy. Watching and listening to the reactions of the people coming to us for food who just a few weeks ago were employed and working toward self-sufficiency is both humbling and inspiring,” says Dr. Phil Knight, Executive Director for the Food Bank Council of Michigan. “During COVID19, as in normal times, dairy products remain the one of the most requested items at our distributions. Moms’ faces light up when they see milk being loaded into their vehicles. It is a look of relief, thankfulness and joy. These experiences would not happen without the generosity of the people of the dairy industry of Michigan. In the midst of their own economic downturn, they still give to help their hungry neighbors.”
The food banks will have minor costs associated with distributing these items. The United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) has provided funding to food banks to help them offset these costs.
This is an example of the partnership that UDIM has grown over the past five years with Michigan food banks. This partnership has helped change the landscape of how milk is distributed and increased the amount of milk available to food bank clients. There has been dramatic growth in milk purchased by these food banks due to improved nutrition education, efficiency in transportation operations, new coolers at food pantries and more streamlined milk purchasing processes.
“Creating relationships with food banks builds trust that Michigan’s dairy farmers are great partners in providing high quality milk. It helps food banks see dairy’s value and encourages them to invest in distributing milk, allowing UDIM to have further conversations about building infrastructure within their network,” said Cortney A-Boes Freeland, Manager, Education and Community Partnerships at UDIM. “That infrastructure creates more places for milk to go, generates more demand for dairy and puts more milk in customers’ hands.”