In just three months, COVID-19 drove unemployment rates higher than at any point during the two years of the Great Recession.* In 2020, more than 54 million Americans may face hunger due to impacts of the coronavirus, an increase from 37 million pre-pandemic.** The Connecticut Food Bank reported in June that in their six-county service area, the food insecurity rate had increased by 44 percent from 277,000 people to nearly 400,000 people.***
Milk is one of the most requested items at food banks but the least available. To help address this need and support pantries feeding families across the state of Connecticut, the Connecticut Milk Promotion Board launched the Connecticut Dairy Farmer to Food Pantry Cooler Grant Program in coordination with New England Dairy. Through this program, dairy farmers nominated food pantries receive coolers to keep milk and dairy products cold and safe during distribution to individuals and families in need.
The grant provided 21 food pantries across the state with refrigerated coolers and funds to initially stock the coolers with dairy products for their communities; each cooler can hold 64 gallons of milk.
This cooler grant program was driven by the dairy farm families of Connecticut who recognize and embrace their role in feeding and supporting their communities during both good and challenging times. “There’s a big need at food pantries across the state and through this program we hope that more families will have access to nutritious dairy products,” said Paul Miller, chair of the Connecticut Milk Promotion Board and owner of Fairvue Farms.
Salvation Army food pantries in Danbury, Middletown and Meriden each received one of the 21 coolers. “It is always great to have partners that are willing to fight the hunger alongside us,” said Captain Jose Hernandez of The Salvation Army in Middletown. “We are very grateful.”
“As more families turn to food pantries for support during the pandemic, refrigeration is the biggest challenge when distributing dairy. We know that dairy is an essential and nutritious part of a balanced diet, and many pantries don’t have the refrigeration they need to keep milk cold and safe,” said Heidi Harkopf, registered dietitian with New England Dairy.
* from PewResearch.org
** from Feeding America
*** from Connecticut Food Bank
About Connecticut Milk Promotion Board
The Connecticut Milk Promotion Board, administered by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, was established in 2008. The board consists of nine appointed members and is charged with developing, coordinating and implementing promotional, research and other programs designed to promote Connecticut dairy farms and milk consumption.
About New England Dairy
New England Dairy’s mission is to champion the region’s farm families and the nutritious foods they produce. The non-profit organization does this by sharing the New England dairy story, connecting people to dairy farms, supporting youth wellness in schools and delivering the latest nutrition and sustainability science to health professionals, scientists, media, nutrition professionals and educators.
For more info: SalvationArmyCT.org