INDIANAPOLIS, May 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- That gallon of milk you consider a staple in your refrigerator is missing in many of America's food banks. 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.
In an effort to reverse the trend, America's milk companies and dairy farmers, along with the American Dairy Association of Indiana, have helped to create 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.
The Great American Milk Drive makes a stop at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in support of the Indianapolis 500 – an event some have long considered America's Great American Milk Drive with winners celebrating with milk in Victory Circle. This year marks the 40th annual Fastest Rookie of the Year Awards, with this year's mission to shine a light on food insecurity in Indianapolis. The luncheon salutes first-year drivers in the race field and is attended by more than 300 guests, including Indiana dairy industry representatives and motorsports personalities.
Hunger in Indianapolis
Hunger impacts 1 in 6 Americans, including 1 in 6 Marion County residents 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. Map the Meal Gap shows how hunger impacts every county in the country. 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.
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 Americans to lend a hand and contribute nutritious milk to food insecure families.
With a simple click of a mouse (www.milklife.com/give) or text message (text "Milk" to 90999), it is now possible to buy much-needed milk and donate it for as little as $5.00 to a family who does not have regular access to milk. By entering your zip code, you can ensure that the milk is delivered to a local Feeding America food bank in your very own community. In addition, by donating between now and May 25, you can make milk multiply – any donation made between now and May 25 will be matched by America's milk companies and dairy farmers.
"We serve 37 million Americans each year through our network of food banks, but unfortunately, our clients receive the equivalent of less than one gallon of milk per person per year," said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America. "This has been an ongoing problem that hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. Now we have a chance to do so much more, and I couldn't be more thrilled. Increased donations of milk means increased protein and other nutrients for our clients and their families."
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.
"We have a responsibility to make sure we are getting those in need the most nutritious food possible," said Aiken. "Providing nourishing items like milk and fresh produce makes a huge difference in the nutritional quality of the meals we're able to provide and hopefully makes a real difference in our clients' lives."
A recent network survey of Feeding America food banks revealed that 94 percent of respondents are actively working on improving the nutritional quality of meals provided to food bank clients. Yet, 95 percent of those surveyed say they do not receive enough milk to meet the demand. The number one reason cited is inadequate milk donations.
Milk tops the list of the food items most requested by food bank participants (85 percent), followed by fresh fruits (77 percent) and fresh vegetables (74 percent). While several recent initiatives have focused on getting more produce into feeding programs, The Great American Milk Drive is the first program to help resolve the milk shortage.
"Milk is a great source of high-quality protein, but unfortunately it's missing in feeding programs across the country, including here in Indianapolis," said Deb Osza, General Manager of American Dairy Association Indiana. "Milk can help power potential – but only if you have access to it. We need to be sure all Hoosiers have access to nutrient-rich milk, and together we can get more nutritious food to those who need it most."
Feeding America, whose network includes more than 200 food banks, is encouraging Americans to join The Great American Milk Drive to help provide the much-needed milk to food banks in their area. By visiting www.MilkLife.com/give, you can learn more about the need for more nutritious foods like milk in America's food banks and how a small donation can make a significant impact.
About Feeding America
Feeding America is a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. Together, we provide food to more than 37 million people through 61,000 food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters in communities across America. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate. Together we can solve hunger. Visit http://www.feedingamerica.org/. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FeedingAmerica or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/FeedingAmerica.
The Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), Washington, D.C., is funded by the nation's milk companies, who are committed to increasing fluid milk consumption. The MilkPEP Board runs the Milk Life campaign, a multi-faceted campaign designed to educate consumers about the powerful nutritional benefits of milk – with 9 essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, in each 8 ounce glass. For more information, go to www.MilkLife.com. Lowe Campbell Ewald is creative agency for the Milk Life campaign – from America's milk companies.
About National Dairy Council
National Dairy Council® (NDC), the non-profit organization founded by dairy farmers, is committed to nutrition education and research-based communications. NDC provides science-based nutrition information to, and in collaboration with, a variety of stakeholders committed to fostering a healthier nation, including health professionals, educators, school nutrition directors, academia, industry, consumers and media. Established in 1915, NDC comprises a staff of registered dietitians and nutrition research and communications experts across the country. NDC is committed to promoting child health and wellness through programs such as Fuel Up to Play 60. Developed by NDC and the National Football League (NFL), Fuel Up to Play 60 encourages youth to consume nutrient-rich foods and achieve at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. For more information, visit www.NationalDairyCouncil.org.