“It’s important to remember that USDA has allocated funds through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to purchase commodity items like milk, fresh vegetables and meat to donate to families in need,” said ADA North East CEO Rick Naczi. “With so many families still struggling to make ends meet, we’re glad to help ease the burden a bit by providing wholesome, nutritious milk they can serve at home.”
Naczi added that the CFAP program equates to milk sales because it helps replace the shortfalls in sales due to the market disruption, especially with school and restaurant closures. The cooperatives and processors are paid for the milk, so farmers aren’t seeing a loss in their milk check.
Milk is being distributed in a several ways. Drive-through events have drawn thousands of cars that allow for families to directly receive a few gallons of milk. We also coordinate deliveries of milk to food banks in high-risk areas, knowing milk is one of the most requested items but rarely donated because of its perishability. For instance, each week, ADA North East coordinates 20,000 gallons to be delivered to food banks in Long Island City, N.Y., to provide milk for families who need and want it in their local communities.
Another result of the milk distribution events is the positive image dairy farmers are gaining by positioning them as part of the solution to help feed families.
“We are always looking for ways to positively insert dairy farmers in the news cycle so consumers can hear first-hand from them,” said Naczi. “Over the past few months, thousands of people have seen or heard stories about local milk distributions, many of which have included quotes and interviews with local dairy farmers associated with the event. By showing their support, consumers are associating farmers with helping during difficult times.”
Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program board member and Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) member Louie Diamond of Masontown, Pa., has been instrumental in getting milk to families in his community since the pandemic began. He helped initiate three milk drives to-date, including one of the earliest DFA milk distributions in April prior to the establishment of CFAP.
“I think these milk drives will help future sales and consumption by getting people back into the habit of drinking milk,” said Diamond. If larger families drive through an event, the volunteers will often give them more than two gallons. “Because it’s perishable, we know people aren’t going to take more than they need and hoard it.”
Diamond also views the milk drives as an opportunity for local communities to work together, including law enforcement, fire departments, borough council members, and churches who help execute and host the events. “On Sundays we preach from the pulpit but on Saturdays we preach with our hands,” he added.
Judi Whittaker of Whittaker Farms in Whitney Point, N.Y., volunteered at a milk drive in Tioga County, N.Y.
“When the pandemic first hit, it was shocking that people couldn’t get the food that we farmers were still producing because of the supply chain issues,” said Whittaker. “These families will now be able to stretch their food dollars that they would have spent on dairy to buy meat and fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Milk has been purchased across the region from Clover Farms, Dairy Farmers of America, Harrisburg Dairies, Schneider’s Dairy, Upstate Niagara Cooperative and H.P. Hood, with the funds provided by the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and Nourish New York.
For more information about American Dairy Association North East, visit AmericanDairy.com, or call 315.472.9143.