Food pantries that can offer perishables like fresh milk and other dairy products are able to fulfill one of their most common requests, but it’s not as common to be able to offer the dairy because they can’t keep it cold. Some of those pantries in Indiana have just been awarded milk refrigeration units, thanks to an American Dairy Association Indiana (ADAI) pilot grant program.
“We basically opened up a grant application where farmers could fill out a grant for their local food pantry to get a cooler to store dairy foods and milk,” explained ADAI CEO Jenni Browning.
She said Hoosier dairy farmers wanted to help fill a food pantry need during the height of the stay at home period earlier this year.
“Food pantries just don’t have a lot of funds or space to have coolers that keep all the perishable items cold and safe, so that was one way that we really could transition from open houses for dairy farms and things like that during the month of June,” Browning said. “This was one way that throughout March and April we could help out food banks and food pantries that we could connect with.”
For generations farmers have been deeply rooted in community service, and Browning said this is one more example.
“Dairy farmers and farmers of all kind are really involved in their communities, really showcasing to everybody else what the values of farmers are,” she told HAT. “Putting efforts towards this and coolers to help farmers feed others was something that we felt fit our mission.”
Dairy farmers applied for the cooling units based on strong community relationships with food pantries in their areas. The pantries receiving the refrigeration units are:
- Bread of Life Community Food Pantry, Plymouth
- Luce Food Pantry, Richland City
- Faith Chapel Church Pantry, Huntington
- Salvation Army Pantry, Goshen
- Community Center of Caring Food Pantry, Auburn
In Indiana, one in eight people and one in six children are food insecure (Feeding America). Food pantries play an essential role in helping to bridge the hunger gap, especially as families face the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As dairy farmers, we want to ensure our milk is available to everyone,” said Richard Thomas, Middlebury dairy farmer and ADAI president. “I applied for the grant to benefit the local Salvation Army, because they didn’t have a way of keeping milk cold. We have seen firsthand how important these pantries are to local communities and know the milk coolers will make a positive impact for the pantries and their clients.”
To learn more about ADAI programs and how they support Indiana’s dairy community, visit winnersdrinkmilk.com or call 317-842-3060.
Also this week Browning and other members of her ADAI team have been visiting the farms of Indy 500 milk men and women. They are all being presented with a special sign to display on their farm.
“It’s just a way that we can honor the people who have been the milk presenter at the Indy 500,” she said. “We went back in history and the first time there was dairy farmers really owning the position of handing over the bottle of milk was around 2004, and that was Paul Mills. They’ve done such a great job of representing the whole dairy industry.”