Hunger affects people in every community across the country and could be one job loss or medical crisis away for anyone. Not everyone struggling with hunger qualifies for federal nutrition assistance, and food banks are making it their mission to bridge this gap.
In congruence with federal nutrition programs, food banks have used the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a model for healthy eating for their recipients. As a result, recent years show more fresh produce being sourced and distributed to populations in need. Despite the mission to provide the most nutritious food possible, milk and dairy foods continue to be some of the least donated yet most requested food items at food banks.
Currently, the average food bank recipient receives less than one gallon of milk per year. However, to meet the recommended three servings of milk each day, they need more than 1 gallon per week. Milk is naturally nutrient-rich, containing nine essential nutrients, including 8 grams of high-quality protein per serving and three of the four nutrients missing in the diet of most Americans– calcium, vitamin D and potassium.
Nutrition-related illnesses are more prevalent in food insecure households. One third of households utilizing food banks has a family member living with diabetes and 58% of food bank clients report high blood pressure. Research shows three servings of milk each day can help maintain healthy blood pressure and reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. According to Feeding America, 79% of food insecure households report purchasing cheaper, unhealthy food to provide enough to eat for their families. Milk, yogurt and cheese are affordable sources of high-quality protein. In fact, each serving of milk only costs about a quarter.
Food banks are beginning to address the dairy deficiency at their facilities, which has led to the launch of a program called Milk2MyPlate. This program is working to bring food banks and milk suppliers together with a common goal to provide a consistent supply of fresh milk to those who need it most. September 7th is National Food Bank Day, and you can show your support by taking the #10GallonChallenge! Donate 10 gallons of milk to a local food bank near you, and together we can help end hunger.