Dairy industry and hunger organizations come together to fight food insecurity


KANSAS CITY, KS. – Dairy industry leaders joined hunger relief organizations from across the Midwest to brainstorm ideas and discuss business models that will help put more dairy into the hands of food insecure people.

The first Dairy Nourishes America Midwest Symposium was hosted by Feeding America®, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and the Innovation Center for US Dairy. DFA hosted the meeting from June 22-24.

Members of 32 Feeding America Network food banks from 15 states joined representatives from dairy processors, refrigeration companies, the National Federation of Dairy Producers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and others to find solutions to provide more dairy products to people in need. Feeding America reports that the average person seeking help from food banks receives less than a gallon of milk per year, but it remains one of the most requested items among the 38 million Americans facing the hunger.

Barb O’Brien, CEO and President of Dairy Management Inc. and the Innovation Center for US Dairy, pointed to the steady growth of dairy products going through Feeding America, a payment partner, over the years. Industry efforts, including local and national enforcement teams, co-ops, processors and the USDA, helped increase the amount of dairy products distributed from 446 million pounds in 2019 to 664 million in 2021, according to data from Feeding America.

O’Brien said the Innovation Center’s food safety task force, led by DFA executive Jackie Klippenstein and retired Kroger executive Erin Sharp, is working to rally the industry to distribute 1 billion pounds of dairy products per year by 2025.

“It’s ambitious but achievable,” O’Brien said. “If we work together, we can fill these gaps and opportunities like transportation, cold storage and other infrastructure challenges that we know exist.

“No child or individual in one of the world’s most food-secure nations should go hungry or lack access to the affordable, unparalleled nutrition dairy products provide.”

Jerod Matthews, who serves as Senior Director of Dairy Resources at Feeding America, said improving access to more dairy requires a new business model that doesn’t simply rely on donations.

“Feeding America is looking for innovative ways to access food donations from across the supply chain,” Matthews said. “As businesses increase efficiency, fewer products remain available for donation. We need strong public/private partnerships to continue providing food aid to the tens of millions of people who turn to the charity food sector for help.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack referenced USDA programs that have addressed hunger and made dairy products available. He highlighted more than $39 million in grants through the agency’s emergency food assistance program to support low-income and underserved communities, including expanding storage capacity and refrigeration in food banks. Vilsack also spoke about the $400 million dairy donation program where dairy organizations partner with food banks to facilitate donations and reduce food waste.

“I look forward to hearing more ideas about how we can work together to make sure no American goes to bed malnourished,” Vilsack said. “When organizations like Feeding America host meetings like this and expand private sector efforts, our country gets closer to finding meaningful and lasting solutions.”

Klippenstein described a “culture of community” to DFA and said the co-op’s Farmers Feeding Families Fund has raised nearly $950,000 from its member farmers, staff and allied partners to provide dairy products to those who needed it. She presented food bank operators with a scenario of how more progress can be made collaboratively.

“Food banks have relied heavily on donated dairy products for their clients. In general, dairy product donations are provided inconsistently – often when there is excess product or to draw attention to an event such as World Milk Day or Hunger Action Month in September “, she said. “The pandemic has taught us how much dairy products are in high demand at food banks and how they can play a vital role in the fight against food insecurity. Hosting this meeting gives us the opportunity to be around the table to discuss new opportunities to work together.

“By leveraging state and federal programs with industry donations and food bank purchases, the dairy industry can create meaningful, long-term relationships with food banks using sustainable business models to ensure the milk is more regularly available to those who need it most.”

The meeting also featured expert speakers, including Dr. Chris Cifelli, Senior Vice President of Nutrition Research for the National Dairy Council (NDC). Cifelli highlighted how dairy products can help people meet their nutritional needs, saying an NDC-led study used computerized analysis of food nutrient data and looked at what would happen if dairy products were eliminated. food.

“We ran a lot of simulations and it turned out that dairy products are extremely difficult to replace,” Cifelli said. “Yes, you can try replacing milk, but there are trade-offs. You’re going to have to eat more food and consume more calories and you’re going to have to pay more and that’s something consumers may not want to consider.


About the American Dairy Innovation Center®

The Innovation Center for US Dairy is a forum that brings the dairy community together to meet changing consumer needs and expectations through a framework of best practices and shared responsibility. Initiated in 2008 by dairy farmers through the dairy levy, we collaborate on efforts that are important to us and our valued customers in areas such as animal care, food safety, nutrition and health, environment and community contributions. Through the Center for Innovation, the American dairy community demonstrates its commitment to continuous improvement from farm to fork, striving to ensure a socially responsible and economically viable dairy community.

About Feed America®

Feeding America® is the largest hunger relief organization in the United States. Through a network of more than 200 food banks, 21 statewide food bank associations, and more than 60,000 partner agencies, food pantries, and meal programs, we’ve helped provide $6.6 billion in meals to tens of millions of people in need last year. Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and improve food security for the people we serve; draws attention to the social and systemic barriers that contribute to food insecurity in our country; and advocates for legislation that protects people from hunger. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

About the Dairy Farmers of America

Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is a national, farmer-owned dairy cooperative focused on quality, innovation and the future of family dairies. While supporting and serving more than 11,500 family farm owners, DFA manufactures a variety of dairy products, including fluid milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, dairy ingredients and more that connect farms from our cooperative to family tables with regional brands such as Alta Dena® Dairy, Meadow Gold® Dairy, Friendly®’s, Borden® Cheese, Plugra® Premium Butter and Kemps® to name a few. Globally, we work with some of the world’s largest food companies to develop the ingredients their customers crave, while remaining committed to social responsibility and ethical farming. For more information, please visit dfamily.com.


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