Dairy MAX Creates Program to Provide Milk Coolers for Food Pantries
Around 54 million Americans faced hunger as a result of COVID-19 and found themselves reaching out for help from their local food pantry. While food insecurity didn’t begin with COVID-19, the pandemic certainly highlighted the number of Americans who are impacted by food insecurity, and food banks continue to be a necessary source of nutritious food for those in need.
In July 2020, Dairy MAX began a program working with Feeding America to provide coolers to local food pantries within their network. These coolers store milk and other dairy foods, allowing food banks to purchase a steady supply of dairy from local processors on behalf of the food pantries.
Before the pandemic, milk has been one of the most requested but least donated items to food banks. To help fill the gap, Dairy MAX has looked for ways to make sure food banks receive enough dairy to feed those who need it and have the proper cold storage to safely maintain it, which is often a key challenge for food banks and pantries.
“Our partnerships are focused on sharing resources and expertise to solve challenges – and food banks are at the top of that list,” said Jennie McDowell, Vice President of Business Development for Dairy MAX. “This is a growing sales channel for milk, and we are working to make sure it remains accessible to consumers who need it.”
In addition to the Feeding America network, Dairy MAX has also extended the cooler program to university food pantries within its eight-state region. According to Feeding America, 47% of all college students reported being food-deprived, and campus pantries exist to address that need and to ensure their student populations are provided for with dignity and respect. In addition, the program also allows Dairy MAX to create new partnerships and connect with Generation Z consumers, whose dairy consumption tends to wane in high school and in college. To date, six university pantries across three states have received Dairy MAX coolers: University of Texas at San Antonio, Louisiana Tech, Tarleton State, Midwestern State, Redlands Community College and Colorado State University.
HELPING FOOD PANTRIES SERVE THEIR COMMUNITY
The coolers, which hold up to 64 gallons of milk, are wrapped with a design that calls out dairy’s essential nutrients and features local dairy farmers. Through the program, pantries receive the coolers along with resources like milk storage education materials, dairy recipes, nutrition information and social media content to share with their clients.
Dairy farmers have a long history of providing nutrition and fighting hunger within their local communities. The partnership between Feeding America and the dairy community has increased the availability of dairy foods in food banks nationwide by 56% since 2016.
“Dairy farmers are part of the fabric of our local communities,” said Nova Schouten, dairy farmer and Dairy MAX board member. “We’re proud to support the community, and I count it as a blessing to be a link in the chain providing quality milk to help feed our neighbors.”
The availability of milk in food pantries is a welcome addition that leaves a lasting impact on the families they serve. Repair the Breach, a pantry in Cleveland, Texas, serves a woman who brings in her son who has special needs. He was so elated to see the cooler that he exclaimed, “Hey Mom—look, they have milk!”
Region-wide, Dairy MAX, on behalf of dairy farm families, helped distribute over 400,000 gallons of milk through Feeding America food banks. The local food pantries have had this to say about the impact the Dairy MAX coolers had on the service they provide to their local communities:
- Our community has been extremely blessed with the fresh milk we receive weekly. Many people in our community cannot afford to get the nutrients they need daily. The milk provides the daily nutrients to help keep them strong. Also, our children love the fresh milk in their cereal for breakfast and the parents are thankful the milk helps keep their bones strong.
- Melissa Isaacs, Executive Director of Bridge City-Orange Ministerial Alliance in Bridge City, Texas
- Having milk available to Center of Hope families has been overwhelmingly positive. Having an abundance of milk available to Center of Hope families has been more than positive for the families struggling to feed their children.
- Gloria Barber, Director of Center of Hope Pantry in Livingston, TX
- I would like to thank you for the milk you helped supply. We are out in the country, so I know it helps some of our older clients because of the driving to town. We also have many that are on a low budget so not having to worry about buying milk allows them to buy something else they may need. Our clients let us know every time they get milk how much they appreciate it and how thankful they are. We are all thankful. Have a blessed day!
- Stephanie & Ronnie Preston, Directors of New Life Assembly of God Pantry in Batson, TX
- Without the cooler program Dairy MAX offered; we would have never thought purchasing milk was a feasible option for us. Before 2020, fresh fluid milk in pantries was just not something our area had ever experienced. Since launching the program, we’ve had nothing but positive responsiveness. I love hearing from our pantries and the communities about the availability of fresh milk in pantries.
Pantries were beside themselves to be chosen for the Dairy MAX cooler program. Fresh fluid milk just wasn’t something the pantries had had in the past and now they had the ability to offer it to their clients. During pantry site visits, I heard many clients exclaim their appreciation for the milk. Many of the drive thru boxes included cereal and other products that just go best with fresh fluid milk versus shelf stable.
- Rachel Crowder, Agency Relations Specialist for Southeast Texas Food Bank
To find out more about the Dairy MAX cooler program, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.