(BPT) - For many American children, summer is the ultimate season. Whether it’s the warm weather, the break from school or the opportunity to enjoy activities like camp, swimming and bike rides, kids count down the days to fun.
However, one in six children in the U.S. faces hunger, according to a 2019 Feeding America report. For them, the summer months may not be so carefree. Child hunger becomes more prevalent at this time, as upward of 18 million children may lose access to the free or reduced-price school meal programs they depend on during the school year. While some programs like the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program help to deliver meals when school is not in session, the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program do not reach children during the summer months. As a result, they could miss out on important nutrition their growing bodies need, like dairy.
Milk is one of the most requested items at food banks. While Americans are generous with canned and dry goods, many don’t think to donate milk because it’s perishable. On average, food banks are only able to provide the equivalent of less than one gallon of milk per person per year.
Real milk provides nine essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, kids need for growth and development. That’s why America’s dairy community has been committed to nourishing families across the nation. Last year, dairy farmers and companies contributed 686 million servings (or 275 million pounds) of nutritious milk, cheese and yogurt to local food banks through Feeding America.
“The reality is, it’s challenging for kids to get all the nutrients they need to grow, develop and learn without milk in the diet,” said pediatrician and parenting expert Dr. Tanya Altmann. “Milk is the top food source for calcium, vitamin D and potassium. When kids don’t have access to these important nutrients, especially during their growing years, it could cause serious health implications.”
As the largest hunger-relief organization in the U.S., Feeding America works with its networks of food banks to get nutrient-rich foods to kids who need it when school isn’t in session. However, more help is needed.
Over the summer, the dairy community, along with Feeding America, will be rallying consumers to feed kids at locations including feeding sites, farmers markets and sporting events. All the while, local efforts will help raise awareness and donations for the Great American Milk Drive.
“The fact that so many people — maybe even your neighbors’ kids — may be at risk of hunger when they are out of school for the summer is hard to wrap your head around,” said Laila Ali, professional boxer, TV personality and champion of health and fitness. “I’m excited to team up with a community as passionate about a cause as dairy farmers are around hunger, so we can increase kids’ access to vital nutrition, including milk and other dairy foods, this summer.”
People everywhere can take action against hunger and help get milk to families who need it at GiveAGallon.com. Even a small donation can make a big impact — for as little as $5, Americans can help food banks deliver fresh milk to children and families who need it most right in their own communities.
Marilyn Hershey, Pennsylvania dairy farmer, chair of Dairy Management Inc., said, “All families should have access to the nutritious foods they need. That’s why we’ve been committed to supporting youth wellness through programs that deliver dairy nutrition and resources that create healthier school environments and increase access to healthy foods among students.”
This summer effort is supported by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and its Undeniably Dairy campaign, as well as the Milk Processor Education Program’s (MilkPEP) Milk. Love What’s Real campaign, which is built on a core promise to inspire people to savor what’s real and what really matters. To learn more, visit: UndeniablyDairy.org, MilkLife.com or find them on social media.