The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


June 22, 2014

Valley food banks now serving milk

HARRISBURG — Milk is now at Valley food banks thanks to an innovative pilot program that makes it possible to distribute the nutritious but highly perishable product.

The first shipment from Harrisburg Dairies went out Thursday, said Joe Arthur, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, which partnered with the dairy and will distribute the milk to its affiliates in 27 counties, including Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union.

The program, which will help 55,000 people served by the food bank, took “a lot of creative work” between various dairy participants and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Arthur said.

“Milk is a difficult product to have in a charitable food program because it’s highly perishable and high value,” he said. The price range for a gallon of milk in the Northeast is $3.49 to $4.49, according to the June 12 National Dairy Retail Report, issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“When you’re tight on resources and need to look at what to do with that last $50 until the end of the month, it’s not easy to reach for a $4.50 gallon of milk,” Arthur said. “The more we can provide milk for our food bank system helps stretch those dollars for families.”

The food bank’s system distributes food to more than 800 soup kitchens, shelters and food pantries, serving about 20,000 households each week.

Ninety-five percent of food banks nationwide report they don’t receive enough milk to meet clients’ needs. Great success in ramping up fresh produce sharing gave the food bank the capacity to handle, transport and distribute refrigerated food like milk, Arthur said.

Other dairy products with a longer shelf life, such as cheese, already are in food bank programs.

Donors have contributed more than $1 million over the last four years to develop this program, Arthur said, which likely will spend about $100,000 in the first six months of the pilot just on milk. Various industry participants, including the Pennsylvania Association of Milk Dealers, Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association and Center for Dairy Excellence, will work with the food bank to find grants and funding to keep the program sustainable.

Arthur feels confident the program will expand statewide after the six-month pilot is complete.

“Pennsylvania now has a way to serve milk to our citizens who otherwise wouldn’t have access to nature’s perfect beverage,” Agriculture Secretary George Greig said Thursday in announcing the program. “This opens a new market for our state’s high-quality milk and is the first step to ensuring all Pennsylvanians have access to it.”

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