On Wednesday, Dec. 5 2018, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring and Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) Dr. Jewel Bronaugh announced the launch of the Milk for Good campaign, the first statewide milk purchase program to benefit food insecure families. 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 2019, each of the seven food banks which comprise the Federation will receive 200 half-gallons per week over a 24 week period.  The pilot phase is generously 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,” said Secretary Ring. “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.”

According to Feeding America’s ‘Map the Meal Gap’ report, nearly 894,000 Virginians (including 249,000 children) 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 these families.

The 2014 Hunger Study, the most comprehensive survey of food pantry clients conducted in Virginia, found that 43% of respondents (more than 57,000 people) said they would like 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,” said Federation 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.”

Cold storage capacity has long been one of the greatest barriers to providing milk through the food bank network. In response, The Dairy Alliance granted $49,000 in new refrigeration units to eighteen pantries throughout the Commonwealth. Additionally, the American Dairy Association North East, which supports the dairy industry in five northern Virginia localities, granted $8,250 for new coolers at three Alexandria pantries.

“On behalf of the dairy farm families of Virginia and the Southeast, The Dairy Alliance is proud to partner in the implementation of the Milk for Good program, helping to ensure that hungry families across Virginia have better access to nutrient-rich, wholesome milk,” stated Molly Szymanski, Chief Operating Officer for The Dairy Alliance.

To support the Milk for Good program and help it reach even more families, visit https://vafoodbanks.org/milk and make a donation today.

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