Dairy and food industry groups joined forces with Detroit Red Wings player Justin Abdelkader to donate $26,000 to buy fresh, nutritious milk for the Food Bank Council of Michigan. The donation was made possible through Michigan-area members of Kansas City, Kan.-based Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and its DFA Cares Foundation, the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM), Okemos, Mich., and Grand Rapids, Mich.-based SpartanNash, DFA said.

The $26,000 donation will be used to purchase SpartanNash’s Our Family brand milk from locally based Country Fresh of Grand Rapids. The milk will help feed local families through the Food Bank Council of Michigan’s network of seven food banks serving all 83 counties in the state, DFA said.

SpartanNash’s Our Family private brand milk is available in Family Fare Supermarkets, D&W Fresh Market, Forest Hills Foods, ValuLand and VG’s Grocery stores, as well as at independent retailers across the state.

“Milk is a highly requested item at our food banks, but it’s not often donated due to its perishability,” said Dr. Phillip Knight, executive director at Food Bank Council of Michigan. “We’re especially grateful for this milk donation right now during the summer months because so many of our Michigan-area children and families might be missing out on their daily access to milk with school not in session.”

Currently, 15% of all Michigan residents and 18% of all children are considered to be food insecure. Nationally, according to FeedingAmerica.org, more than 46 million people, including 13 million children, turn to food banks each year for extra support.

“Because real cow’s milk provides nine essential nutrients, including protein and calcium, it is important for growing children to have at least three servings every day,” said Sharon Toth, CEO at UDIM. “We are happy to be a partner in finding solutions to get fresh milk to food-insecure households across Michigan.”

The money was raised through Michigan-area DFA dairy farm family and employee monetary donations to the DFA Cares Foundation, which made a dollar-for-dollar match for every contribution, for a total donation of $11,042. UDIM, along with Abdelkader, matched the DFA Cares donations made in the state of Michigan, up to $10,000. SpartanNash also contributed $5,000 to help support the Food Bank Council of Michigan, DFA noted.

“As dairy farmers, we work hard every day to provide nutritious and delicious dairy products to people in our community and beyond,” said Dan VanDyke, a farmer from Coopersville, Mich., and a member of DFA’s Mideast Area Council. “It’s important to help others out, and I’m incredibly proud to help support this effort, which will benefit individuals and families who are facing tough times throughout Michigan.”

SpartanNash understands the importance of healthy, affordable food being accessible to everyone in the local communities, said Meredith Gremel, the company’s vice president of corporate affairs and communications.

“Each year, SpartanNash donates more than 5.5 million pounds of food through our corporate retail locations, distribution centers and our MDV military division, because we know how important it is to our local communities that everyone has a healthy, nutritious meal on the table each day,” she said.

Abdelkader presented the $26,042 check to representatives of the Food Bank Council of Michigan at SpartanNash’s annual Fresh and Grocery-Frozen-Dairy Expo, held at the DeVos Place Convention Center August 1-2. Representatives from DFA, UDIM and SpartanNash were also on hand for the check presentation.

“As an athlete, I know how important nutrition is to my daily performance, so it’s difficult to imagine how a kid can grow and learn without knowing if they will have nutritious food to help them be their best,” Abdelkader said. “That is why I wanted to partner with UDIM on this important initiative.”