You’re going to hear a lot about The Great American Milk Drive again. That’s the initiative launched last year by the Milk Processor Education Program, a Washington, D.C.-based marketing organization funded by dairy processors to promote consumption of milk. The drive’s goal is to provide fresh milk to hundreds of thousands of Americans, children and adults alike.

September has been designated Hunger Action Month. With children back in school, the nonprofit Feeding America sees this month as an opportune time to point out the need for nutritious foods and beverages for an estimated 46.5 million Americans who lack sufficient food.

In the 12 months since MilkPEP kicked off the milk drive, the dairy industry has been generous. Its efforts (your efforts really) have generated more than 380,000 gallons for U.S. food banks. That’s more than 6.1 million servings of milk.

MilkPEP hit upon a great idea to get milk into the fridges of the needy. Instead of asking people to donate gallons of milk (which are unwieldy, need to be kept cold and have a short shelf life), MilkPEP’s program collects money that is turned into vouchers that food bank clients can redeem at grocers for fresh milk. (In Illinois, Prairie Farms Dairy actually stores and distributes fresh milk for the Northern Illinois Food Bank. Food pantries purchase gallons of low-fat milk directly from Prairie Farms Dairy at a fixed cost.)

Who’s hungry?

According to Feeding America, a national network of food banks, one in seven Americans needs food assistance. Its analysis shows that 32% of its client households include children and no seniors; nearly 27% include seniors and no children; and over 6% of all households have at least one child and one senior, indicating the possibility of multigenerational households. The food banks in the network serve an estimated 7 million seniors and at least 12 million children. Due to the way the statistics are gathered, Feeding America believes the actual number of children in need is greater.

MilkPEP, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Dairy Council are asking the industry to support The Great American Milk Drive. Their goal is one gallon donated for every attendee. An estimated 6,000 industry members are expected to attend the dairy show in Chicago from Sept. 15 to 18. Here’s what you can do: donate at the registration desk or in the Cyber Café, or go online at As you walk the show floor, look for exhibitors who have signed on to be an “Official Great American Milk Drive Sponsor.” Give them a high five. They deserve it.

MilkPEP CEO Julia Kadison will talk about how dairy processors can use the milk drive to increase volume and build individual brand presence. Her hour-long session, titled “Unlock Ways to Capture Volume - How Milk Companies Can Win,” is on Thursday, Sept. 17, beginning at 10 a.m.

Here’s what you can do

If you won’t be at the show, don’t fret. You can still make a donation online, and your company can participate in MilkPEP’s programs with retailers. All of the retailers who participated in the milk drive last year are back this year, and five new retailers have joined the program. Together, the retailers represent more than 3,800 stores nationwide.

MilkPEP has all new point-of-sale materials that highlight the important cause and need for milk, including its high-quality protein. (One example is shown on this page.) 

 Concurrent with the International Dairy Show is Process Expo, organized by the Food Processing Suppliers Association. FPSA is involved in its own philanthropic endeavor called Defeat Hunger. FPSA is spearheading a drive to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository which fights hunger in the greater Chicago area. Show attendees can make monetary donations when they register.

 I’m asking all subscribers to the print and digital magazine (roughly 20,000) and all unique monthly website visitors (30,000, give or take) to contribute to the milk drive or the FPSA campaign. Together, we’ll make a positive impact on the health of those in our community. I thank you in advance.