As the coronavirus pandemic has upended the foodservice supply chain, many dairies and farmers have been left in the lurch with no one to buy their products. While some farmers and dairies have had to resort to plowing over fields full of crops or dumping milk, retailers have joined in to help get that food to where it can do some good: food banks, which are under increased demand as more Americans are losing jobs and becoming food insecure just as donations have begun to dry up. According to Feeding America, an estimated 17.1 million additional people will experience food insecurity due to school closures and rising unemployment during the pandemic.
The Kroger Family of Companies partnered with its dairy cooperative suppliers and farmers to launch an expanded Dairy Rescue Program that will process and donate about 200,000 gallons of additional milk to Feeding America food banks and community organizations through the end of August, uplifting its Zero Hunger Zero Waste initiative.
The Dairy Rescue Program expands on an existing partnership model between Kroger and its dairy cooperative suppliers to direct even more fluid milk—one of the most requested but harder-to-stock items at food banks—to food-insecure communities. Through the expanded program, during the pandemic dairy cooperatives will donate surplus milk normally sold to restaurants, schools and hotels, while Kroger will donate the processing and packaging of the donated milk. Additionally, in some areas, Kroger's logistics team will also donate the transportation of the milk to local food banks. The program previously donate a combined 129,900 gallons throughout the year, but now Kroger's dairy processing plants and suppliers will be donating an additional 50,000 gallons of milk per month to local food banks and community organizations.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses like restaurants and hotels across the country to close, some of America’s farmers are left without buyers for their dairy supply,” said Heather McCann, director of public affairs for Dairy Farmers of America's mideast area, one of the partners in the program. “Kroger's Dairy Rescue Program is an invaluable resource for the dairy industry during this crisis and beyond, helping distribute and process surplus milk to communities who need it the most.”
The program is further enhanced by Kroger's Centennial Dairy partnership in Atlanta, with Dairy Farmers of America, to direct 24,000 half-gallons of milk to support healthcare workers and first responders in Augusta, Macon and Savannah, Ga., throughout May. Kroger kicked off the Great Georgia Give milk donation campaign in metro Atlanta late in April with Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black.
Publix Helps Farmers, Food Banks
Publix's new initiative to purchase fresh produce and milk to assist farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic also will work with Feeding America to supply fresh fruits, vegetables and milk.
“As a food retailer, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the needs of families and farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones. “In this time of uncertainty, we are grateful to be able to help Florida’s produce farmers, southeastern dairies and families in our communities.”
More than 150,000 pounds of produce and 43,500 gallons of milk was donated to Feeding America food banks during the first week of the initiative, which launched April 22.
“In addition to providing much needed produce and milk to food banks, this initiative provides financial support to farmers during this challenging time,” Jones said. “We’re honored to be able to work with these groups and do good together for our communities.”
Publix Super Markets Charities also recently made donations totaling $2 million to support Feeding America member food banks during the pandemic.