Guest post by: Deb Osza, General Manager, American Dairy Association Indiana

The holiday season has passed, but that’s no reason to forget about our hungry friends and neighbors. As we set our personal goals for 2018, let’s not forget to help Gleaners towards its goal of filling every bowl.

Last fall, my company, American Dairy Association Indiana, was so pleased to be a part of a wonderful event called Experience Gleaners and to work with the amazing team at the food bank. As a proud partner, we are constantly struck by the impact Gleaners has on our community, as well as the support from such a diverse group of organizations, like ours, that may not seem to have a direct connection to hunger.

The dairy association is proud to work for Indiana’s 1,000 dairy farming families, who are passionate about getting our hungry neighbors the food and nutrition they need. In agriculture, we work to ensure the food produced is healthy and wholesome, but all that work is for nothing if all Hoosiers don’t have access to nutritious food, including milk.

Dairy farmers are so aware of this issue that they established the Great American Milk Drive to help food bank customers get milk for their families. Dairy farmers, many of whom are active in their community’s food pantries, saw that storing fresh milk at many pantries and food banks was impossible and expensive, so they created a system where donors can provide milk vouchers to food bank customers which can be redeemed at any grocery or corner store.

Milk is one of the most requested but least donated items in food banks today. The average food bank customer receives only one gallon of milk per year. Imagine—trying to feed a family and prepare meals with only one gallon of milk per year. It is heartbreaking to me that amid bountiful Indiana farm country, where so much food is raised, we still have hungry children and families. What do dairy farmers say about this? They say, “it’s just not right!”

For more than 100 years, dairy farmers have been committed to improving childhood nutrition. In 1916, that concern was nutritional rickets caused by vitamin D deficiency. The concerns today focus on childhood obesity, diet quality, and unmet calcium needs. We’ve come a long way, but there is a long way left to go to ensure all Hoosier children can grow up with the nutrition they need to succeed and thrive.

The amount of work that goes into putting food on our tables astounds me. The work of farmers, processors, food safety inspectors, grocery store employees, truckers, and more, ensures a safe, reliable supply of food. Then, the hardworking people at Gleaners Food Bank make sure that food supply is available to everyone. There is no higher calling than feeding the hungry and I am proud to be a small part of that process.