In a unique arrangement, four diverse Maine organizations are teaming up to address hunger relief and support Maine dairy farmers. Good Shepherd Food Bank, Pineland Farms Dairy Company Inc., Libra Foundation and Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) will distribute thousands of pounds of cheese to food-insecure Mainers through Maine’s emergency food distribution network, Bangor, Maine-based Pineland Farms Dairy said.
Starting immediately with a commitment of more than 26,000 pounds of cheese donated by Pineland Farms Dairy — made from local DFA members’ milk — Good Shepherd Food Bank, Maine’s largest hunger-relief organization, will begin distributing cheese weekly to its network of more than 500 partner agencies, which include food pantries, meal sites, shelters and schools. Contributions could total 200,000 pounds of Maine cheddar and jack cheese over the course of several months, Pineland Farms Dairy said.
To donate its cheese inventory immediately, Pineland Farms Dairy said it secured an arrangement to receive milk donated by Kansas City, Kan.-based DFA. Even during the pandemic, DFA is committed to ensuring milk continues to be picked up, its plants continue to operate, and the cooperative continues to provide consumers and communities with wholesome dairy products. By continuing to have a market for their milk, farmers will receive needed milk checks, and Pineland Dairy will receive a supply of local milk to begin replenishing its inventories.
“At an unprecedented time in our history, we are proud to work collaboratively to put local and highly nutritious cheese products into the hands of our neighbors in need,” said Mark Whitney, president and an owner of Pineland Farms Dairy.
Travis Fogler, an owner at Stonyvale Farm in Exeter, Maine, and a member of DFA’s Northeast Area Council, agreed.
“Dairy Farmers of America is critical to the ongoing viability of many Maine farms, and therefore creating these markets for our milk in extreme circumstances is vitally important, and we are proud to be able to put the milk to good use and support our communities in need,” he said.
Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank, said the organization welcomes the program in light of ongoing food insecurity in Maine and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Need is increasing across Maine as more community members face financial uncertainty due to job loss or the inability to work due to school closures,” she said. “While it will take time to see new patterns of food insecurity emerge, we know the need is rising and the food bank is grateful that this partnership will reduce food waste and provide our neighbors with access to Maine-produced products.”
As a result, Whitney is now busy restoring full operations at Pineland Farms Dairy’s renovated 75,000-square-foot facility.
“This program allows us to immediately begin re-engaging our entire plant workforce to make cheese with Maine milk for many Maine people, which is a welcome step forward,” he added.
Pineland Farms Dairy said its donation program was encouraged by one of its investors, the Libra Foundation of Portland. The foundation indicated its willingness to underwrite the company’s loss of up to $2 million incurred by donating inventory.
“This is a win for everyone,” said Whitney.