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Got milk? SWFL's food pantries in crucial need for more milk

June is National Dairy Month and ‘The Great American Milk Drive’ makes it easy to give a gallon

June 25, 2014
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

That gallon of milk you consider a staple in your refrigerator is missing in Southwest Florida's food banks. June is National Dairy Month, and the dairy industry has partnered with Feeding America to help get nutritious and much-needed milk to those in need with The Great American Milk Drive.

According to Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization, milk is one of the items most requested by food bank clients, yet there is a nationwide shortage because it is rarely donated. Feeding America clients receive the equivalent of less than one gallon of milk per person per year. That will soon change with the recent launch of The Great American Milk Drive, the first-ever national program to help deliver highly desired and nutrient-rich gallons of milk to hungry families who need it most.

With a simple click of a mouse ( or text message (text "Milk" to 27722), it is now possible to buy much-needed milk and donate it for as little as $5 to a family who does not have regular access to milk. By entering your zip code, you can ensure that the milk is provided to a local Feeding America food bank in your very own community.

Hunger impacts 1 in 6 Americans, including 12.5 million families who do not have access to adequate nourishment to help them reach their full potential. Hunger has no boundaries and is a problem that exists in urban, suburban and rural communities. In fact, more than 160,000 people living in Southwest Florida are considered to be "food insecure" by Feeding America.

With its network of more than 200 food banks and 61,000 food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters throughout the country, Feeding America helps provide food to families in need including many in the Southwest Florida.

"We strive to provide our neighbors in need with nutritious foods and The Great American Milk Drive offers a chance to get nutrient-rich milk to our clients," said Al Brislain, president and CEO of the Harry Chapin Food Bank. "The donations received through this effort will help further our mission to fight hunger and provide nourishment to the families we serve in Southwest Florida."

It's been a challenge for Feeding America to meet the demand for milk due to the lack of donations canned goods and other non-perishable items are more likely to be donated. Now, it's going to be easier for Southwest Florida residents to lend a hand and contribute nutritious milk to food insecure families.

"Florida's dairy farmers are proud of the industry's efforts to help nourish those who, unfortunately, don't have adequate access to milk," said Matt Lussier, president of Florida Dairy Farmers. "This problem is large in scale, and helping food banks gain access to the protein and nutrients in milk will have a major impact on the families who utilize their services."

The Great American Milk Driveis made possible by the nation's dairy farmers and milk companies. The goal of the campaign is to deliver two million gallons of milk to food banks across the country, and Southwest Florida residents can help meet that goal.

Nourishing Our Nation The Need Is Greater Than Ever; Many Americans are pressured financially due to a convergence of economic stresses which means more people are turning to their local food bank for help. Compared to four years ago, one million more people are seeking emergency food assistance from the Feeding America network each week. Increasingly, food banks have introduced nutrition criteria for the meals served to clients. More than two-thirds of the groceries distributed by the Feeding America network meet Feeding America's "Foods To Encourage" guideline, based on the USDA's MyPlate guidelines, which include a serving of milk.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank solicits, collects and stores quality food for distribution to families in need through a network of more than 150 nonprofit agencies in Lee, Collier, Hendry, Charlotte and Glades counties that provide food to more than 30,000 people monthly. In 2013, the Harry Chapin Food Bank distributed 17.5 million pounds of food, provided 14.6 million meals and turned every $1 into $6 worth of food for those in need.



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