Dairy Is Committed to Finding Solutions to Nourish Children
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have never seen more disruption to systems that help us nourish youth and keep them healthy. This pandemic has impacted availability and accessibility of school meals as well as further stressed family budgets and the health care system. School meals and other feeding assistance programs are more important than ever to help nourish growing and developing children and adolescents.
Throughout its 105-years history, National Dairy Council (NDC), founded by dairy farmers, has been dedicated to helping make sure children’s basic right to nutritious foods is realized. NDC’s work to support child nutrition and health has largely been through nutrition research and through school meals and school educational programs like Fuel Up to Play 60. As president of NDC, I assure you we remain steadfast in our commitment to childhood health and wellness, here’s what we are doing to find solutions during this unprecedented time.
NDC is helping school professionals like Donna Martin, a registered dietitian who serves as director of school nutrition programs in Burke County, Georgia. Donna received grant support from a local farmer-led dairy council, The Dairy Alliance, and is seeking more from another farmer-created group, GENYOUth. GENYOUth is a nonprofit focused on school health and wellness efforts and started the COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund: “For Schools’ Sake – Help Us Feed Our Nation’s Kids!” The goal is to provide $3,000 grants to help schools nourish 30 million students nationwide who face food insecurity. (People interested in donating can find more information here.)
To help nourish families and communities, NDC is collaborating with Feeding America to provide dairy foods to the millions of food insecure people relying on food banks. This demand has only gone up with the pandemic. The dairy industry has been redirecting more milk and dairy foods from other sources across the supply chain — from farmers, to processors — to help meet the increased demand at food banks. In June, American Dairy Association North East partnered with local milk cooperatives and community organizations to facilitate the distribution of more than 200,000 gallons of milk to families who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The summer months come with their own challenges, because it can be difficult to reach the millions of children who typically receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year. If you work with families who are food insecure or know of anyone in your community in need, there are some resources that can help. USDA’s summer meals programs are available to help families ensure children have access to nutritious meals that help them learn and grow during the summer months. Here are a few resources available:
- USDA Summer Meal Site Finder shares locations by ZIP code.
- SAP4Kids helps locate meal sites for students and families.
- Feeding America’s locator tool gets people to their closest location.
Dairy farmers are working hard every day to ensure nutrient-rich milk and the dairy foods made from it are available to help nourish those in need. NDC doesn’t know what the near-term holds for us, but we do know that we are up to finding solutions to any new challenges when providing nutritious meals to our nation’s children and families. Please let us know if we can help in anyway.