As a mom and a registered dietitian, it is hard for me to fathom that the gallon of milk in my refrigerator is missing for many families facing food insecurity. In fact, 84 percent of households Feeding America serves report choosing foods based on price rather than nutrition in order to provide enough to eat.
Milk is one of the most requested foods in food banks, but it is rarely donated. It has been estimated that on average, families who rely on food banks for staples receive less than one gallon of milk per person per year. However, they need more than a gallon per week to meet the Dietary Guidelines’ recommended three servings each day. Milk is an important beverage in the American diet. It is naturally nutrient-rich, containing 9 essential nutrients, including 8 grams of high-quality protein per serving and three of the top nutrients missing in many Americans’ diets – calcium, vitamin D, and potassium.
The Federation of Virginia Food Banks is working hard to make sure Virginians have regular access to milk. In 2019, they launched the first statewide milk purchase program to benefit food-insecure families, Milk for Good, making more milk available in Virginia food banks than ever before. Through this program, milk is purchased by the Federation of Virginia Food Banks directly from the processor. This milk is then distributed among the seven food banks across the state.
The 2014 Hunger Study, the most comprehensive survey of food pantry clients conducted in Virginia, found that 43 percent of respondents (more than 57,000 people) would like access to more dairy products in their local pantries.
“Dairy products, and fluid milk in particular, are among the most in-demand items at our approximately 1,600 partner agencies,” said Federation Executive Director, Eddie Oliver. “Milk for Good puts fresh milk in the hands of families who need it most and advances our efforts to increase the availability of nutritious products on our pantry shelves.”
Before Hunger Action Month ends, consider making a donation to your local food bank to assist in the purchase of milk and other nutrient-rich dairy foods. With the coronavirus pandemic causing more families to struggle and an estimated 54 million people facing food insecurity in 2020, it is more important than ever to support your local food bank. Visit Feeding America to learn more about hunger in your community and how to help.