The Great American Milk Drive kicked off on April 19 at more than 50 Shoppers Food & Pharmacy and 20 Shop'n Save stores in the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. This year marks the fourth year of the partnership among American Dairy Association North East, MilkPEP, Shoppers Food & Pharmacy and local food banks.

The Great American Milk Drive is the first-ever national program to deliver highly desired and nutrient-rich gallons of milk to families that use food banks, said the American Dairy Association North East, which has offices in North Syracuse, N.Y. and Philadelphia. Over the last three years, the milk drive raised more than $237,000 and almost 58,000 gallons of milk to Feeding America food banks across Maryland, Virginia and the Washington, D.C., area.

"Hunger is an issue that is close to my heart, so I'm honored to stand behind a program that provides milk to local children and families that would otherwise have to go without,” said Washington Redskin alumnus Gary Clark, who spoke at the kickoff event in Clinton, Md.

Also speaking at the event were Melissa Malcolm-Cullison of Washington, D.C.-based MilkPEP and Molly McGlinchy of Capital Area Food Bank.

According to Feeding America, milk is one of the most requested, but least donated items at food banks, meaning children in need across the country are missing out on the essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, it supplies, the association said. On average, food banks are able to provide the equivalent of less than 1 gallon of milk per person per year. While Americans are generous with canned and dry goods, many don't think to donate milk because it's perishable.

"We expect to set a record this year for donations,” said Jennifer Newton, manager of community/customer service relations for Bowie, Md.-based Shoppers Food & Pharmacy. “Last year, we raised more than $85,000 through in-store and online donations, ensuring that nearly 928,000 servings of nutrient-rich milk will reach local area families in need."

At all Shoppers' and Shop'n Save locations, customers may donate $1, $3 or $5 at the register through Mother's Day, May 13. Their donations purchase milk for families who struggle with hunger and rely on food banks to put a meal on the table, the American Dairy Association North East said.

Donations to The Great American Milk Drive may also be made online at