The Northwest Arkansas Food Bank received funds from Midwest Dairy Corp. as part of a $500,000 donation to food banks in 10 states to provide local milk to those in need. The NWA food bank said it will purchase 2,000 gallons of milk from Hiland Dairy with the funds. The milk will be given to consumers facing food insecurity resulting from rising unemployment amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Food banks across the region have been seeing an unprecedented need in recent weeks, setting records for daily and weekly food distribution and illuminating the urgency of new resources and avenues to connect community members with a sustainable food supply.
“We are so appreciative of this generous donation from the Midwest Dairy Association and Hiland Dairy,” said Kent Eikenberry, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank. “Dairy is one of the primary food groups and being able to distribute dairy to our 2,000 neighbors who came on May 9 added much value to what they received.”
Eikenberry said the gift could not have come at a better time as unemployment numbers are still climbing. He said demand is being pushed higher because schools — where many children receive the majority of their daily meals — remain closed.
Though dairy checkoff funds (marketing and promotional dollars) are not typically used to purchase dairy products, the USDA has approved a proposal at the request of Midwest Dairy to help meet the need and get dairy into the hands of people who need it. Hiland Dairy is among a number of other dairy processors that Midwest Dairy is connecting with food banks to match supplies with inventory needs throughout the region.
“As a farmer and Midwest Dairy leader, I am proud of our work to make this donation possible to provide dairy products to people who otherwise may not have access to these nutrients during this challenging time,” said Allen Merrill, Midwest Dairy Corp. board chairman and a dairy farmer from Parker, S.D.
Midwest Dairy is partnering with dairy processors to determine what products they have available and then will provide a list of interested processors to food banks across the Midwest that have both a need and the capacity to increase their dairy inventory and distribution.