June is National Dairy Month—a time to pay tribute and raise awareness about all the delicious, wholesome, nutritious qualities of dairy products. This June is different, though. This June, milk, cheese, yogurt and dairy foods are helping to fight hunger and food insecurity at one of the most challenging times in our nation’s history.
Since mid-March, an estimated 41 million Americans have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and the resulting economic disruptions. For many of these families, food from federal nutrition programs, food banks, religious institutions and other non-profits have helped keep nutritious food on their tables. And dairy is one of the food groups that is in high demand for good nutrition.
Milk is one of the most requested items at food banks but is not usually collected in small food drives because of a lack of refrigeration. However, milk processors are stepping up with donations that keep milk flowing to food banks and out to families. For example, Dairy Farmers of America, the nation’s largest dairy cooperative, has raised hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars for community food banks and donated significant quantities of fresh milk and dairy products to people in need. Companies such as Danone, Chobani, Sargento, Land O’Lakes, Prairie Farms and others are also making large donations of yogurt and cheese.
To further assist non-profit organizations with providing healthy foods and beverages to needy families, USDA has launched a new program, Farmers to Families Food Boxes. Through this program, USDA is purchasing dairy products, along with fruit, vegetables and meat products from food manufacturers and farmers and distributing them to non-profits across the country, who then provide boxes of nourishing food to families. USDA will spend $317 million on boxes containing a variety of dairy products. In order to supply boxes through the program, dairy companies have partnered with food banks or other non-profit agencies across the country.
Existing federal programs are also being used to address food insecurity and hunger. In some cases, waivers have been granted to allow flexibility in program requirements so that nutritious food can be distributed, while maintaining healthy distance or addressing supply chain challenges. Milk continues to be a cornerstone of school meals provided while kids are out of school, while yogurt and cheese remain an option as meat alternates. Dairy is also an important category of the food package supplied to the millions of women, infants and children who participate in the WIC program each month.
Good nutrition is the foundation of health and wellness for adults and children alike, and dairy is a crucial part of a healthy diet now more than ever. In fact, no other type of food or beverage provides the unique combination of nutrients that dairy contributes to the American diet, including high quality protein, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, and health benefits including better bone health and lower risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Dairy companies from coast to coast are making important contributions to the nutrition and good health of people across the country. Thanks to everyone involved with getting vital, nutritious dairy products to Americans in need.
Throughout the month of June, IDFA will continue to present facts, information, and stories about how dairy is contributing to the health and nutrition of people everywhere. Please follow IDFA's LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook pages, the #DairyNourishes campaign on social media platforms, and the IDFA website, www.idfa.org/dairynourishes, for updates.