This simple phrase kicked off a campaign nonpareil for the California Milk Processor Board in 1993. Created by Goodby Silverstein & Partners advertising agency, the campaign had an incredible impact on the sale of cow’s milk in California and brought us the iconic “Got Milk?” mustaches we know and love.
With milk in high demand and abundant supply thanks in part to this campaign and to pop culture, it’s a sobering realization that many Americans, including our hungry neighbors, do not have easy access to this nutritious drink that is so vital to overall health and well-being at any age—whether for growth and development at a young age, or for bone health later in life.
Every week, Northern Illinois Food Bank gives hope to more than 71,500 hungry neighbors by providing them with the food needed to help fill their meal gaps, which in turn helps them be more successful in their everyday lives. And with its naturally occurring vitamins and minerals including Vitamin D and calcium, milk is a healthy addition to any diet.
Due to the heavy regulation of milk as well as its short shelf-life, access to milk and other fresh dairy products has been a challenge for our partner feeding sites, keeping those key nutrients just out of reach for our hungry neighbors across Northern Illinois.
In 2012, when Northern Illinois Food Bank Director of Food Procurement Steve Ericson and Consulting Dietitian Kelly Brasseur were working with the USDA’s MyPlate program, which is designed to help people start and maintain healthy eating habits, they realized the nutrients found in dairy are not readily available and accessible to our hungry neighbors. This discovery inspired the team to find a way to provide a consistent supply of fresh, low-fat milk to food pantries. Northern Illinois Food Bank’s Milk2MyPlate program was created that October.
Specifically, the Milk2MyPlate program addresses the deficiency of Vitamin D and calcium in the diets of low-income adults and children by providing access to fresh 1% milk and fresh eggs. Our friends and longtime supporters at Prairie Farms agreed to provide pantries participating in the program with a weekly supply of fresh milk, thus allowing our neighbors in need to take home milk that is as fresh (if not more) as it would be coming from a grocery store.
And thanks to an outpouring of support from donors like Forward DuPage, which provided grant funding for the pilot program, to others including The Christopher Family Foundation, Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, Gibbs-McCormick and The National Dairy Council, Milk2MyPlate will continue providing much-needed milk and dairy for our neighbors in years to come.
The program quickly took off—within the first eight months of the pilot, 11 food pantries were distributing more than 5,000 gallons of milk, and just over three years into the program, the Food Bank reached another Milk2MyPlate milestone—distribution of its 5 millionth serving of milk!
In February, we were proud to distribute 16,238 gallons of milk to the 50 participating pantries, totaling 259,808 servings of milk for our hungry neighbors, as well as 4,320 dozen eggs! We’re thrilled at the thought of all the glasses that are now on dining room tables across our service area not just half full, but completely full—but we know we still have more work to do.
It’s easy to see why the Milk2MyPlate quickly became an industry-leading program across the Feeding America network and the dairy industry. It was nominated for a U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award and awarded honorable mention in the category of Outstanding Achievement in Community Partnerships in 2015, and has been rolled out across the Feeding America network to other food banks looking to fill their hungry neighbors’ glasses.
While June is National Dairy Month, the start of summer vacation is right around the corner, and that means children who normally receive dairy and fresh milk with their free or reduced-price lunch will soon lose access to this important source of daily nutrition, so we need your help today to ensure the program’s long-term sustainability and success.
To donate, contact Hester Bury via email, or call 630-443-6910 ext. 124.
Thank you for helping us keep kids and families across Northern Illinois healthy and happy this summer and beyond!