When you get people together, rallied around a cause, it’s pretty incredible to see what they can do. The Great American Milk Drive is a country wide effort between the dairy industry (farmers and milk companies) and Feeding America centered around solving the milk gap. Milk is one of the most requested yet least donated items in the food bank system with families receiving, on average, less than one gallon of milk per year. But the success of the initiative hinges on the generosity of people and of communities. Last week, we saw this generosity in action.
Utah’s dairy farmers teamed up with Lee’s Marketplace – a local grocery retailer, Gossner Foods, a local processor and two Northern Utah food pantries on a one-day event designed to create awareness and spur milk donations during hunger action month.
What was initially planned as a 4-hour event at one of the retailers’ stores turned into an all-day donation opportunity across the retailers’ 3-store network. Every Wednesday, Lee’s Marketplace slashes milk prices, and customers come in droves, sometimes buying 6 or 8 gallons of milk at $2.29 a piece. It’s a great deal and the store prides itself on being known as the community “milk store.” When we first started talking to them about the Great American Milk Drive, partnering on a Wednesday seemed to make the most sense – encouraging people to buy a gallon of discounted, nutrient-rich milk for those who need it most, and the store really took the idea and ran with it.
When the store opened on Wednesday, September 17th, employees knew to ask each customer at checkout if they would consider donating a gallon of milk to the local food pantry. Hundreds of people said, “Yes” and the three stores generated over 1700 gallons of milk for local pantries, blowing our initial goal of 440 gallons out of the water! The store decided that it didn’t make sense to inundate the food bank with a surplus of milk all at once (limitations = perishability and limited food-bank storage), so the stores and food pantries are working closely to have the milk distributed as needed.
The generosity and commitment to the cause didn’t stop with customers. Dairy cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America joined the cause and generously donated that day and expressed their commitment to solving the milk gap permanently in our local communities. Local shelf-stable milk processor, Gossner Foods, an icon Utah’s Cache Valley, volunteered to match, gallon-for-gallon the generosity of Lee’s customers. That’s an additional 1700 galloons of shelf stable milk that will be delivered as needed to the Logan and Ogden food banks!
The director of the Cache Community Food Pantry was so impressed by people’s generosity and so thrilled for what their donation meant for the 140 families his organization serves. He said, “If we can solve our milk shortage, that will be our last big challenge.” Handing out almost 200 gallons yesterday and with over 2,500 more gallons headed directly to his food pantry, we have made some serious short-term progress. The challenge we continue to work through is creating sustainable change so that hungry families never have to go without milk. Through the relationships we are building with the people and businesses of local communities, we are well on our way.
Thank you to all who have made this event so successful. If you would like to get involved, help round out Hunger Action Month by making a donation – here’s how:
- Donate anytime online. Typing in your zip code ensures that your donation stays local.
- Visit any local Smiths store and donate at checkout through their Pour it Forward Campaign
- This Friday, September 26th, visit Smiths in Henderson, NV or Saturday, September 27th you can visit Walmart in Sandy, UT to make an in-store donation.
- Stay tuned for future events in our local communities around the holidays