Families strapped for cash and unable to put enough food on the table typically can get what they need from area food pantries.
Peanut butter. Noodles. Cereal. Even, at times, fruit and vegetables. But too often not milk — until now.
Earlier this year, Harvesters teamed up with Hiland Dairy on a pilot project — Milk2MyPlate — that provided a weekly supply of fresh milk to food bank agencies at a discounted price. Twelve agencies were involved in the four-month pilot, covering eight counties.
Now that the pilot has ended, agencies continue to receive the milk, and Harvesters hopes to expand the program with Hiland Dairy to include agencies throughout the food bank’s 26-county area.
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Valerie Nicholson-Watson, president and CEO of Harvesters, said fresh dairy products topped the list of pantry requests in a recent study. But they often weren’t available.
When the Bishop Sullivan Center did offer milk at its two pantries, the staff had to purchase it at retail prices. When the cost continued to rise, the center struggled to afford that extra expense.
“We probably didn’t have milk for a good year,” said Angela Fencl, office manager at Bishop Sullivan, which was part of the pilot program. “Just having the milk now gets people excited.”
More than 11,000 half gallons of milk have been distributed through the program.