On two consecutive Wednesdays during September (Hunger Action Month), patrons of local Utah grocer, Lee’s Marketplace, stepped up in an unprecedented way.
Source: Dairy Council of Utah & Nevada
Twenty percent of all shoppers visiting the grocery chain’s 5 locations said, “Yes” when they were asked at checkout if they would like to donate a gallon of milk. Known as “the milk store,” Lee’s Marketplace discounts milk each Wednesday, and it’s common to see shoppers wheeling carts out of the store loaded up with 3-4 gallons, sometimes more! When we started this drive 4 years ago, Jarad McDonald, VP of Operations at Lee’s Marketplace suggested holding it on a Wednesday. Milk is on shoppers’ minds and, with the discount, it is an easier ask of people – less of a financial burden. This year, at $1.88/gallon, shoppers were incredibly generous and donated 4,693 gallons of milk across the store’s 5 locations – Smithfield, Logan, North Ogden, North Salt Lake, and Heber City. Donations to each of the locations benefit a food pantry within that particular city, so the giving and benefit all remains local.
The model we have established with Lee’s is sustainable and works well for all parties involved. Here’s how it works:
• Patrons are asked if they would like to donate a gallon of milk at checkout
• If “Yes” the total is added to their bill
• Each Lee’s Marketplace location tracks donation to that store
• At the end of the drive, donations are totaled and the local food pantries are notified
• Pantries work with Lee’s to get the milk as they need it, which reduces potential spoilage or inundation if all of the milk were donated at once.
In addition to the nearly 5,000 gallons donated by local patrons, local dairy companies, Gossner Foods and Dairy Farmers of America contribute in a large way to the drive, demonstrating the entire dairy community’s commitment to getting milk into the food bank system. Matching gallon for gallon, Gossner foods contributed an additional 4,693 gallons and Dairy Farmers of America added $1500 to the cause bringing the grand total up to over 10,000 gallons donated.
A few years ago, the dairy community became aware of a a food and nutrition gap. Families visiting food banks across the country were asking for milk, yet there was little milk available, and the average family received less than one gallon per year. Dairy farmers and dairy processors sought to close the gap and determine ways to get milk into the food bank system. The Great American Milk Drive was born and has since evolved as communities across the country have adopted the concept and tweaked it to best suit the needs in their particular communities. Matt Whittaker, director of the Cache Community Food Pantry says, “Milk is a highly requested item that is not donated too often, so the families we serve go without.” Milk from this drive allows these families to have consistent access to milk for an extended period of time.
The evolution of the drive has brought community organizations with like-minded goals together. This year, local Girl Scouts helped hone their cookie selling skills by promoting the drive in North Salt Lake, and in Cache Valley, local students with the Fuel Up to Play 60 Program engaged the community by encouraging store patrons and thanking donors.
The Lee’s Marketplace model in Utah has worked extremely well. As an independent retailer affiliated with Associated Foods, the chain prides itself on being a local, community-engaged store. This partnership was in line with the work that they were already doing and allowed them to continue engaging with and serving the local community. The addition of two new locations in 2017, North Salt Lake and Heber City, meant that the drive benefited additional pantries and families. Another new location is planned for 2018, and we look forward to continuing to foster the partnership that brings the entire community together.