Getting dairy to people in need
Midwest Dairy has worked on getting dairy products to schools and food banks during the coronavirus pandemic.
Midwest Dairy has made a "pivot" in its mission during the coronavirus pandemic, with extra emphasis on schools and food banks.
"Our focus is getting dairy foods to people in need," said Molly Pelzer, CEO of Midwest Dairy, which represents 7,000 dairy families across the Midwest, where through the checkoff, dairy producers invest 15 cents for every 100 pounds of milk they sell. Typically, the organization works with retailers and consumers, supports school nutrition, invests in research, provides opportunity to young dairy leaders and develops products that meet consumers' needs.
As part of its refocused efforts, the organization has launched several programs and initiatives. They include:
Providing coolers to schools in need. Midwest Dairy funded and placed more than 1,500 soft-sided milk crate cooler bags and 100 barrel coolers for school nutrition departments. The goal is helping to furnish cold milk through curbside or bus-delivered alternative feeding methods. "Kids like cold milk," Pelzer said.
The NutriStudents K-12 Partnership, which offers free emergency school menus. This online tool provides hot and cold menu options that comply with U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines. It seeks to ensure that schools will be eligible for federal reimbursement as they shift to distributing to students in need through pick-up or delivery or both.
The Refrigeration Grant Program, which provided 20 commercial refrigerators to food pantries in the region. Also, the former Undeniably Dairy Grant Program, now the Community Relief Grants, has been modified to provide more refrigeration to help to meet the need at Midwest food pantries.
GENYOUth, which offers emergency grant to help to deliver meals to students. The GENYOUTH Foundation, a partnership between the nation's dairy farmers and the National Football League, has created a COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund that's available to all schools. The fund provides up to $3,000 per school to buy resources needed to distribute and deliver meals.
Pelzer, a registered dietitian, noted that USDA has a program to help meet the nutritional needs of students during the summer, too.
"I know how important it is for students to get all the great nutrients in milk they need," she said. "We need to keep our future in mind, and these students represent 100% of our nation's future."
Supplies of milk and other dairy products are available. But making sure products get to students and food banks is essential, Pelzer said.
For more information on Midwest Dairy and its programs: www.midwestdairy.com.