JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Got milk? Be thankful. It’s the most requested and the most difficult product to come by at pantries and food banks across the country.

But through the end of September, local dairy farmers, Price Less, Kroger, IGA, Circle K, Walmart and other grocery retailers will make it easy. And they’re inviting everyone to help.

At participating Price Less, Kroger and IGA stores, donations of any amount may be made at the checkout register to provide milk vouchers for Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee and the 200 community pantries and feeding agencies it serves to pass along to local families in need. At Walmart, purchases of specially marked Delmonte, Intimate and Lenders Bagels products will generate corporate donations for The Great American Milk Drive vouchers.

In town Sept. 13 for the kickoff event at the Price Less store on South Roan Street, Mark Farmer with the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association gave credit to Tennessee’s dairy farmers and the milk processors and food stores they do business with for stepping up to meet the need.

“Milk is the most requested item at food banks because it has a high nutritional value and because it is vital to young children’s development,” Farmer said.

According to the national Feeding America network of food banks across the United States, the high level of requests for milk and the rarity of milk donations combine to create an ongoing shortage of milk on the food banks’ shelves and in the homes of the one in seven Americans who are food insecure.

For people served by Feeding America, including 43,000 residents of Northeast Tennessee assisted monthly by Second Harvest and its local partner agencies, less than one gallon of milk per person per year is available for distribution annually. Ninety-five percent the nation’s food banks report they do not receive enough milk to meet client demand, and 94 percent are actively working to improve the nutritional value of the food they distribute.

According to Farmer, The Great American Milk Drive was designed to improve those statistics. It is the first national program to help provide nutrient-rich gallons of milk to families who need it most. The drive is being conducted during September to give everyone a chance to contribute to the effort to end hunger in America during National Hunger Action Month.

In addition to Tri-Cities area grocery retailers, partners in the drive include Sayland Dairy of Sulphur Springs, the American Dairy Association of Tennessee and the Prairie Farms Dairy processing and distribution company.


Information from: Johnson City Press, http://www.johnsoncitypress.com