DES MOINES, Iowa, June 9, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- That gallon of milk you consider a staple in your refrigerator is missing in Iowa'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, Feeding America and America's milk companies and dairy farmers, including the Midwest Dairy Council, have created 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.
To help celebrate June Dairy Month, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is raising awareness of the milk shortages in food banks and the need for better access to fresh milk in America's feeding programs. To honor the importance of milk in a daily diet and the Iowa dairy industry's commitment to the state's health, the governor officially proclaimed June "Dairy Month" in Iowa.
Childhood Hunger in Summer Months
Hunger impacts 1 in 8 Iowans across the state. Locally in Polk County, nearly 20% of children are faced with food insecurity -- a need that's even greater during the summer months when children are out of school. While the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) supply nutritious meals to children during the school year, these federal programs cannot reach children during out-of-school times.
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 – including many in Iowa.
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. This June, you can help change that.
Food banks serve an especially critical role in ensuring children get the food and proper nutrition they need, providing nutrient-rich foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables and much-needed milk. Iowa Dairy Month is an ideal time to join The Great American Milk Drive and help get fresh, nutritious milk to hungry children and families.
"In our community more people than ever are at risk of missing a meal because they don't have enough food," said Gov. Branstad. "Many of the people Iowa's Feeding America food banks feed each week are children who need nutritious foods like milk to help power their potential. The Great American Milk Drive is a solution to a problem that exists here in Iowa. Donating much-needed gallons of milk to food banks across the state is another step we can all take to fight hunger and improve health in our communities."
The Great American Milk Drive is 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 Iowa 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.
A 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.
"Getting nutritious milk to food insecure families in Iowa is so important," said Molly Pelzer, registered dietitian with the Midwest Dairy Council. "Together we can help the more than 390,000 food insecure people in Iowa get the nutrition they need and truly make this the healthiest state."
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.