With one in five Californians currently struggling with food insecurity, partnerships between farmers and food banks are an essential tool in fighting hunger. In commemoration of World Milk Day (June 1) and June Dairy Month, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) announced a partnership with Feeding American and the California Association of Food Banks (CAFB) to provide access to nutritious dairy foods at sites serving families in need throughout the state. 

A pilot program announced during a June 1 donation event at the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services in Sacramento, will provide five truckloads of cheese shreds in one-pound packages for distribution at 11 Feeding America and California Association of Food Bank sites. That's more than 3 million servings or 3.6 million grams of protein to nourish families, the nonprofits state

Part of the CMAB's hashtag #CADAIRY4GOOD, the pilot is phase one of an ongoing partnership with Feeding America that will deliver more than$1 million in resources to food banks and feeding programs to source California dairy foods including cheese and fluid milk, one of the most requested and least donated items at food banks.

Onsite to help make the announcement, California Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross stated: "California dairy farmers have a long history of supporting the communities where they live and work. I'm pleased to join Real California Milk, Feeding America and the California Association of Food Banks during dairy month to launch this partnership that provides products like cheese, a rich source of protein and other essential nutrients, to programs that serve families throughout the state."

"Farmers feed people, it's core to their personal values," added John Talbot, CMAB CEO. "California dairy farmers are passionate about nourishing communities everywhere with the wholesome goodness of milk. We're grateful to Feeding America for support to expand the reach of these essential resources."  

The California cheese donation will be distributed to 11 food banks — Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Feeding San Diego, Orange County Food Bank, Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank, Second Harvest Santa Cruz County, SLO Food Bank, Food Share of Ventura County, Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano, Central California Food Bank and Second Harvest of the Greater Valley. These food banks have 3,095 community partner distribution organizations, including soup kitchens and pantries, and collectively distributed nearly 360 million meals in 2021 alone.

"Many of our neighbors are forced to make difficult decisions between paying for food or other essentials including housing. Low-income households spend one-third of their budget on food which means rising food costs can have a dramatic effect on food security," said Sam Schwoeppe, senior account manager, Agri Sourcing Partnerships for Feeding America. "Public-private partnerships like this are an essential way to support the vulnerable members of our community and allow us to stretch resources to increase access for all members of the community."

"Our food banks continue to serve more than 1.5x pre-pandemic demand and we don't anticipate that stopping any time soon," said Maria Houlne, director of Farm to Family for the California Association of Food Banks. "Food donations and grants from famers and organizations like CMAB, coupled with public initiatives like the state's CalFood program that allows food banks to purchase California-grown foods, are essential for food banks to meet that demand. Access to food is a basic human right."

The hashtag #CADAIRY4GOOD platform focuses on increasing access to nourishing dairy foods for families throughout California. In 2020 the CMAB provided more than 1 million servings of milk through grants to food banks in the state and in 2021 delivered 14 refrigeration units to school milk pantries in the Central Valley. Phase two of the 2022 program will focus on fluid milk with community milk drives and grants for food banks during September Hunger Action Month.

California is the number one dairy state. Its 1,100 family dairy farms are focused on delivering the wholesome goodness of California milk while creating a greener, more sustainable future for dairy in the state.