Dairy producers help area food banks

Published 6:00 am Friday, June 4, 2021

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Milk is a rich resource in Virginia, with 505 dairy farms producing 173 million gallons of milk in 2019.

But not all Virginians have access to milk, so some dairy farmers and food banks have teamed up to help those in need.

“Fluid milk in particular is one of the most requested items by the people we serve, but it’s simultaneously one of the least donated,” Eddie Oliver, executive director of the Federation of Virginia Food Banks, explained. “The logistics of milk are just challenging because of shelf life. It’s perishable. It has to move quickly.”

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During June Dairy Month, Oliver wanted to highlight the “Milk for Good” campaign, a collaboration of food banks, milk processors and dairy farmers. Launched in 2019 with grants and donations from Farm Credit of the Virginias and The Dairy Alliance, the campaign helps the federation purchase, store and distribute milk.

“We just recently crossed the 200,000 half-gallon threshold,” Oliver noted.

In rural Franklin County, dairy farmer Joanna Shipp and her father, Laird Bowman, sprang into action last spring to help their local food bank, Heavenly Manna, during the pandemic.

“There’s a statistic that says most food pantries give out one gallon of milk per person per year, which isn’t very much,” Shipp said.

Collaborating with their church, Shipp and her father helped raise money for Heavenly Manna to provide milk for the 500 families it serves. She also facilitated weekly milk deliveries to the food bank and a cooler donation to improve the food bank’s refrigeration capacity.

“That’s one thing we felt was important—helping people get a nutritious, versatile item that’s going to work in multiple ways for them,” Shipp said.

In Nottoway County, brother and sister TR Jones and Coley Jones Drinkwater of Richlands Dairy and Creamery made giving back part of their business model.

“We certainly don’t have extra money, but we have milk,” Drinkwater said, who serves on the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Dairy Advisory Committee.

Richlands’ “One for 10 Gallon Give Back” initiative provides one gallon of milk for a food bank or family for every 10 gallons purchased.

The company partners with area food banks, including the Dinwiddie Food Bank and Faces Food Pantry in Farmville, which serve around 300 families. Richlands donated more than 9,000 gallons of milk in 2020.