The Kroger Co. announced the launch of an expanded Dairy Rescue Program designed to support children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic through the summer months. In partnership with its dairy cooperative suppliers and farmers across the Midwest and South, Cincinnati-based Kroger will process and donate about 200,000 gallons of additional milk to Feeding America food banks and community organizations through the end of August, uplifting its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiative.
"Kroger recognizes the growing need for fresh, highly nutritious food in our community, especially for children as schools remain closed during the pandemic to flatten the curve," said Erin Sharp, Kroger's group vice president of manufacturing. "At a time when dairy farmers have surplus raw milk, we're doubling down on our mission to reduce hunger and waste."
Kroger said the Dairy Rescue Program is expanding on an existing partnership model between Kroger and its dairy cooperative suppliers to direct even more fluid milk — one of the most requested but harder-to-stock items at food banks — to food-insecure communities. Through the expanded program during the pandemic, dairy cooperatives will donate surplus milk normally sold to restaurants, schools and hotels, while Kroger will donate the processing and packaging of the donated milk. Additionally, in some areas, Kroger's logistics team will also donate the transportation of the milk to local food banks.
"As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses like restaurants and hotels across the country to close, some of America's farmers are left without buyers for their dairy supply," said Heather J. McCann, director of public affairs for Dairy Farmers of America's (DFA) Mideast Area. "Kroger's Dairy Rescue Program is an invaluable resource for the dairy industry during this crisis and beyond, helping distribute and process surplus milk to communities who need it the most."
The expansion of Kroger's Dairy Rescue Program builds on the existing partnerships with the Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA), Novi, Mich., and Kansas City, Kan.-based DFA, which already donate a combined 129,900 gallons throughout the year. Through the expanded program, Kroger's dairy processing plants and suppliers will be donating an additional 50,000 gallons of milk per month to local food banks and community organizations. Feeding America member food banks and other partners will help transport the gallons and half-gallons to local hunger relief agencies, Kroger said.
From May through August, Kroger said four of its manufacturing facilities will process the rescued milk to benefit several food bank organizations and communities:
- Tamarack Farms in partnership with DFA will donate milk to benefit the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, YMCA Van Buren and the Salvation Army in Columbus, Ohio; New Beginnings in Youngstown, Ohio; and the West Ohio Food Bank in Lima, Ohio.
- Kroger Michigan Dairy in partnership with MMPA will donate rescued milk to Michigan food banks supported by Food Bank Council of Michigan.
- Winchester Farms Dairy in partnership with DFA will donate milk to benefit Feeding America Kentucky's Heartland in Elizabethtown, Ky.; Dare to Care in Louisville, Ky.; God's Pantry Food Bank in Lexington, Ky.; and the Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati. Transportation will be donated by Penske Logistics.
- Vandervoort's Dairy in partnership with Select Milk Producers will donate milk to benefit the Tarrant Area Food Bank in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Houston Food Bank in Houston Transportation will be donated by Quickway Carriers.
The program is further enhanced by Kroger's Centennial Dairy partnership in Atlanta with DFA to direct 24,000 half-gallons of milk to support health care workers and first responders in Augusta, Macon and Savannah, Ga., during the pandemic over the next month. Kroger kicked off the Great Georgia Give milk donation campaign in Metro Atlanta last week with Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black.
"With so many families struggling with unemployment and food insecurity today, providing access to fresh, nutrient-rich milk has never been more important," said Blake Thompson, chief supply chain officer, Feeding America. "Kroger's Dairy Rescue Program is keeping America's farmers productive, avoiding unnecessary food waste and helping families in need."