The Riverbend food bank will receive truckloads of milk gallons every week from now until March. Its all part of a trade mitigation program funded by the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The USDA is buying up to $12 billion in domestic food items as a way to aid American farmers hurting from tariff negotiations with China. Dairy is one industry getting government assistance.
Surplus milk purchased from dairy farmers is the first product being distributed to families in need through community food banks and food pantries.
The River Bend Foodbank has already received tons of gallons of milk from the trade mitigation program. Despite the additional costs they’ll take on for storage and distribution, president and CEO, Michael Miller, says it’s an opportunity they couldn’t pass up on.
“Some food banks declined the opportunity because they just didn’t have the capacity to deal with all this,” Miller said. “But we just couldn’t say no to food that would help hungry people.”
That milk is now making its way to homes in the area.
River Bend Foodbank is partnering with local pantries to distribute the incoming goods. One of those is the Sacred Heart food pantry at the Center in Davenport, which Cassila Battie visits regularly. She’s happy to learn that the government will be stocking up her local food pantry in the coming months.
“We really need the government to help with anything they can possibly help with because there is a lot of people still in need,” says Battie. “If our government isn’t doing what they have to do, we can’t do what we need to do.”
Community food pantries rarely have access to fresh milk. The gallons they’ve received from the USDA purchase are a significant addition to their stock.
“The big difference is, instead of getting milk that has an expiration date one or two days in advance, we’re getting milk that is fresh,” says Deacon Dan Huber, who runs the Sacred Heart Food Pantry at the Center in Davenport. “We can be handing out fresher milk that will last longer in a family situation.”
Over the coming months, the mitigation program will also purchase and distribute surplus pork, poultry, and fruit products.
According to Battie, these are items that families visiting food pantries want to see more of.
“Milk, meats, you know, protein,” Battie said. “Things like that we always need it. It’s nice to get the cans, but it’s even better to get things like that that will help you stay healthy.”
Miller says the bank does not get any funding from the government to help with the additional food storage and distribution costs. Miller says the priority is distributing the food promptly to keep up with the massive amounts they expect to receive as the mitigation program continues.
“It’s six months, and over 80,000 half gallons of milk will be passing through these doors to hungry people in Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois,” says Miller.
Those familiar with local pantries say the need in the Quad Cities will keep up with the supply.
Battie has been visiting the Sacred Heart pantry for the past six to eight months. The free groceries help feed her young daughter, Kimniya.
“There’s no embarrassment for me to stand in a line as long as I know I’m standing in that line to get help,” Battie said.
The River Bend Foodbank will host a milk distribution on site on Wednesday, Dec. 5 and Sunday, Dec. 9.
The Sacred Heart food pantry at the Center in Davenport is open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and on Tuesday’s from 5 – 7 p.m.