Northern Illinois Food Bank and Prairie Farms Dairy Recognized with U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award

11/May/15 / 21:43
Community partnership receives honorable mention for its Milk2MyPlate program


GENEVA, Ill. – Northern Illinois Food Bank and Prairie Farms Dairy have been recognized with a 2015 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award for Outstanding Achievement in Community Partnerships – Honorable Mention. The food bank and the Carlinville-based dairy company partnered to create the Milk2MyPlate program, which ensures a fresh supply of milk – ordinarily a rare offering at food pantries – is available to the families who rely on the food pantry to make ends meet. Since 2012, the program has served up more than three million servings of milk to food pantries in its network.


The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy®, established under the leadership of dairy farmers, announced the winners of the fourth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards on May 7 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The program recognizes outstanding dairy farms, businesses and partnerships for practices large and small that not only focus on the environment, but add up to promote the health and well-being of consumers, communities, cows, employees, the planet and business.


Milk is one of the most nutritious items requested by food bank clients, but it’s rarely donated. Because it needs to be kept cold and safe, and has a relatively short shelf life compared with other donated items, it must move through the system quickly. Buying milk at stores isn’t a perfect solution, since it requires volunteers to pick up and deliver bulky gallons, and can be expensive.


Northern Illinois Food Bank and Prairie Farms Dairy teamed up to find a better way, and by creating the Milk 2 My Plate program, ended up with a model that other food banks and their local dairies can replicate. So far, it has distributed more than 194,000 gallons of milk — 3.1 million servings — to 34 food pantries in the network.


“Many Illinois food pantries struggle to keep fresh dairy products on the shelves,” said Kelly Brasseur, Northern Illinois Food Bank’s registered dietitian. “One of our key priorities is to provide our neighbors in need with nutritious food like milk, the top food source for calcium, Vitamin D, potassium and other essential nutrients.”


The Milk2MyPlate program delivers a number of benefits:

  • Food pantries in the Northern Illinois Food Bank network purchase low-fat gallons of milk directly from Prairie Farms Dairy at a fixed and more affordable cost.
  • Prairie Farms Dairy gains a consistent, year-round customer and is able to deliver fresh milk directly to each agency through its existing ordering system and delivery routes.
  • To cover the costs, Northern Illinois Food Bank and its network of food pantries secure donations from corporate and individual supporters, such as FORWARD (Fighting Obesity, Reaching Healthy Weight Among Residents of DuPage). This local coalition sees the Milk2MyPlate program as a way to help them achieve their goal of reversing the obesity trend.
  • Northern Illinois Food Bank is better able to meet its ‘Foods to Encourage’ goals without direct involvement in storage and distribution. This also eliminates safety concerns that might arise if the milk first must be routed through the food bank’s warehouse.


“Partnering with Northern Illinois Food Bank to implement the Milk2MyPlate program exemplifies our commitment to being good neighbors and making sure fresh, delicious and nutritious milk is available for families to enjoy every single day,” said Geary Crom, Prairie Farms General Manager.


Northern Illinois Food Bank is the source of nutritious food, innovative feeding programs and hope for more than 71,000 people each week in in Boone, DuPage, DeKalb, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, Will and Winnebago counties.


U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award winners were selected based on results as measured by economic, environmental and community impact. An independent panel of judges — which included experts working with and through the dairy industry — also assessed the potential for adoption by others, demonstrated learning, innovation, improvement and scalability.




Midwest Dairy Association® is a non-profit organization funded by dairy farmers to build demand for dairy products through integrated marketing, nutrition education and research. Midwest Dairy is funded by checkoff dollars from dairy farmers in a 10-state region, including Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. For more information, visit Follow us on Twitter and find us on Facebook at Midwest Dairy.