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Nonprofit regional dairy council Dairy MAX today announced that more than 200,000 gallons of milk have been distributed to regional food banks in an multi-state area since May 2020 as part of dairy farmer’s collective COVID-19 relief efforts.Dairy MAX represents more than 900 dairy farm families across eight states.
The organization made the decision to quickly assist with milk distribution at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, mobilizing to assist regionally. Specifically, dairy farmers hoped to help feed Americans in need, providing nutrition, fighting hunger and caring for neighbors. More than 37 million Americans are fed through the Feeding America network of food banks and pantries each year. However, due to COVID-19, 17 million more Americans are relying on this same network. (Source: Feeding America)
Americans may not realize that milk is one of the most requested items at food banks,yet is also the least donated by individuals. Recently the USDA began the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to purchase and distribute agricultural products to those in need through local food banks. Through this program, the USDA purchased $317 million dollars in dairy products and assigned an additional $175 million to developing a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products.
With the CFAP program and network in place, Dairy MAX farmers sought ways ensure food banks receive and distribute as much dairy as possible to families in need. Mass distribution quickly emerged at the start of the pandemic, with many food banks setting up a distribution “drive through” in centrally located large parking lots. The food is free, and families in need can drive up and receive a box of food in a safe, contactless manner.
Dairy MAX wanted to ensure these families were also receiving milk in addition to their fruits, vegetables, and meat offerings, but a transportation partner and refrigeration was needed to bridge the gap. Trucking partnerships began when Dairy MAX learned that Convoy, a digital freight network, was offering free transportation for truckloads of food being donated to Feeding America’s network of food banks across the country.
“When we heard about Convoy’s efforts delivering donations across the U.S. to food banks, our team immediately thought of them as a partner that could help us provide dairy to families in need,” said Mike Konkle, CEO of Dairy MAX. “We have been grateful for their help and partnership, which kick started our ability to bring dairy products quickly to food banks and families.”
As of May 1, Convoy has delivered more than 79,000 gallons of milk to mass distribution sites for the North Texas Food Bank, Houston Food Bank, Southeast Texas Food Bank and the Montana Food Bank Network. The impact of these four organizations is substantial, together serving 95 counties and working with more than 2,000 local food pantries and partner agencies whose mission is to feed those in need. As the pandemic continues, Convoy plans to continue delivering milk to areas in need and beyond.
Additionally, after a successful experience with Convoy, Dairy MAX has continued to grow its initiative of matching trucking partners to food banks by enlisting the help of others such as FedEx Custom Critical shipping service, Flexport freight, and Ryder Truck Rental.
- FedEx Custom Critical has been instrumental in servicing the North Texas Food Bank and Tarrant Area Food Bank, delivering nearly 18,000 gallons of milk to mass distribution sites that feed people across 26 North Texas counties.
- Flexport, by way of their impact team Flexport.org, is offering discounted freight services to nonprofits working to provide to those in need. The company has awarded $30,000 in trucking services from the Flexport.org fund to deliver milk to Creative Outreach Ministries, furthering the organization’s effort to supply food and milk to churches and smaller nonprofits working to feed their local communities throughout Montgomery County, Texas.The Flexport/Dairy MAX partnership supplied Creative Outreach organizations with 56,000 gallons of milk throughout June and July 2020.
- Ryder Truck Rental has stepped in to help service the Food Bank of Central Louisiana, and the Coastal Bend Food Bank in Texas.In addition to helping these food banks support weekly mobile distributions, Ryder’s refrigerated trailers are used to provide additional storage at each food bank, which allows the organization to accept exponentially more milk to be distributed to partner agencies and food pantries throughout the state. With the help of Ryder’s rental equipment, the Food Bank of Central Louisiana will deliver an additional 42,000 gallons of milk monthly throughout their 11-county service area, and the Coastal Bend Food Bank will deliver an additional 12,000 gallons monthly to 11 counties across South Texas.
While the pandemic has increased the need, the response from the dairy farmers of Dairy MAX is inline with the organization’s core values and history. The dairy community at-large, for example,has donated more than 31 million servings of milk to families in need through food bank efforts and Feeding American’s Great American Milk Drive over the last five years.
“Most families that use food banks receive an average of one gallon of milk per year, which is by no means enough to fulfill the nutritional guidelines that recommend three servings of dairy a day,” said Jennie McDowell, Dairy MAX’s director of business development. “You won’t find a group of people more passionate and connected to community feeding and support than the dairy farm families that are a part of Dairy MAX.” To learn more about Dairy MAX’s response to COVID-19 on behalf of dairy farm families, visit DairyMAX.org/covid-19-response.