Va. dairy farmers helping food-insecure households

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VERONA—The state’s first milk purchase program to benefit food-insecure families was announced Dec. 5 at the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, located in the heart of dairy country.

“This is a great way to provide dairy products to local and regional food banks,” shared Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Food pantries have wanted to offer dairy products for many years now, and this program is a great way for them to provide nutritious milk products to their clients.”

At the event, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring and Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, announced the launch of the Milk for Good campaign. Milk for Good is an initiative of the Federation of Virginia Food Banks in partnership with The Dairy Alliance, the American Dairy Association North East and the Virginia Dairymen’s Association.

Beginning in January, each of the food bank federation’s seven regional food banks will receive 200 half-gallons of milk a week for a 24-week period. The program’s pilot phase is supported by a $50,000 grant from Colonial Farm Credit, Farm Credit of the Virginias and MidAtlantic Farm Credit.

“Food banks are on the front lines of the battle against hunger in Virginia,” Ring noted. “Their efforts to secure more locally processed milk will not only strengthen access to quality nutrition for food-insecure families, but our agriculture economy will benefit as well. It’s a win-win.”

Banks said food banks previously have had difficulty providing clients with dairy products due to a lack of refrigeration facilities. As part of the Milk for Good campaign, The Dairy Alliance granted $49,000 in new refrigeration units to 18 food pantries across the state. Additionally, the American Dairy Association North East, which supports the dairy industry in five northern Virginia localities, donated $8,250 for new coolers at three Alexandria food pantries.

According to Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” report, nearly 894,000 Virginians experience food insecurity, which means they struggle to afford enough food at any point throughout the year. Food banks, and the pantries with which they partner, are vital resources for those households.

A 2014 hunger study of food pantry clients in Virginia found that 43 percent wanted 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 2,000 partner agencies,” remarked FVFB Executive Director Eddie Oliver. “This program will put fresh milk in the hands of families who need it most and will advance our efforts to increase the availability of nutritious products on our pantry shelves.”

Media: Contact Oliver at 804-549-5675 or Banks at 804-290-1114.

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