Rachel Conn co-wrote this blog post with Michelle Plummer, relationship specialist at Milk Promotion Services of Indiana.
Can you imagine trying to cook a meal without any milk? Or your kids sitting down to a breakfast with no milk for their cereal? For many clients of food pantries around the country, this is a reality of daily life.
Gleaners Food Pantry serves 21 counties in Indiana, relying on donated food and the work of dedicated volunteers and staff members. Without Gleaners, 260,000 Indiana residents would be at risk for food insecurity– and the need is growing as now, according to reports from Feeding Indiana’s Hungry (FiSH), one in seven households in Indiana struggles with hunger and food insecurity. Even worse, food insecurity can impact a higher percentage of households with children compared to all U.S. households. As a dietitian and a chef who has dedicated most of my professional life to food and nutrition, the work Gleaners does to provide people in need with food is near and dear to my heart.
National Dairy Council and America’s dairy farmers have been committed to nutrition education for over 100 years now, and with the disturbing news that milk is the most requested but the least donated item in food banks, we knew we had to act. Milk and other dairy foods are difficult for food banks to store, due to perishability and refrigeration requirements. To help food banks like Gleaners provide nutrient-rich dairy foods to their clients, National Dairy Council provided grants to 20 Feeding America member food banks to increase their access to fresh dairy foods.
During this time, Gleaners was building a new food pantry, called the Lawrence Cupboard. With the help of this grant, Gleaners was able to purchase a walk-in cooler for dairy foods. This new food pantry is located in an underserved area, where the demand for Gleaners’ services outstripped the supply of food in the pantry.
As a member of the Feeding America network, Gleaners has also participated in the Great American Milk Drive, an innovative way to get food bank clients coupons for milk, thereby allowing clients of food pantries without sufficient cooler space to still have access to milk. Visit milklife.com/give for more information.
This fall, Gleaners is opening a culinary education kitchen to teach their clients about nutrition and food preparation. Cooking skills once learned from mom or dad are not always passed on these days, and cooking nutritious meals under the constraints of food insecurity requires even more creativity.
With one in five U.S. households with children facing food insecurity, help be part of the solution. Here are some current resources for you and your clients.
Read more about how other food banks are helping to bring more milk to families here.