During these unprecedented times, Midwest Dairy has been quickly pivoting to respond to COVID-19 and needs of dairy farmers and their communities in Midwest. Over the past few weeks, the main priority has been assisting schools and food bank partners to help them provide dairy products to students and families in need. Below are details about these efforts to help those in need during this crisis.
Providing Coolers to Schools in Need
One of Midwest Dairy’s first efforts to assist schools in need during this time has been an effort to provide coolers to keep milk cold and safe. We’ve diverted funds that would traditionally be used for in school dairy optimization programs to fund and place more than 1,500 soft-sided coolers and 100 barrel coolers with school nutrition departments. These soft-sided milk crate cooler bags and barrel coolers have been given to school nutrition departments across our 10-state region to help provide cold milk through curbside or bus delivered alternative feeding methods. Midwest Dairy has worked with school health and wellness professionals as well as Midwest dairy farmers to identify districts in need that can benefit from these cooler resources. This project is giving thousands of children direct access to the critical nutrition found in milk and other dairy products, as a part of a balanced meal.
NutriStudents K-12 Partnership Offers Free Emergency School Menus
Midwest Dairy has partnered with NutriStudents K-12, an organization that creates online menu management tools for school foodservice directors, to develop a four-week cycle menu during this time of emergency. The menu is available free of charge to all schools and child nutrition programs across the United States. This resource provides hot and cold menu options that comply with all USDA guidelines to ensure schools that use it will be eligible for federal reimbursement. Many meals feature dairy products such as cheese and yogurt, and all meals include milk servings.
As of April 6, nearly 7,500 school nutrition directors from across the country have visited the website. More than 2,000 of them have clicked through to the menus, directions and recipes. Locally, 2,215 school districts from the Midwest have visited the NutriStudents site and checked out their services. This partnership ensures that children in need who rely on meals at school will continue to receive nutritious food and milk throughout the COVID-19 -related school closures. Visit www.nutristudentsk-12.com/covid-19-mda/ to learn more and to share with school districts in your area.
Midwest Dairy Refrigeration Grant Programs Help Meet Food Pantries’ Dairy Demand
Many food pantries across the region are experiencing increased demand for dairy foods due to school and business closures and increased unemployment during the pandemic. Working in partnership with Feeding America, Midwest Dairy provided 20 commercial refrigerators to food pantries in rural communities across our 10-state region, allowing safe and increased distribution of dairy foods. As a second phase of the food pantry outreach, Midwest Dairy is modifying the Undeniably Dairy Grant program to meet additional refrigeration needs. The grants originally awarded for this program were scheduled to be used at community gatherings and on-farm events, which will no longer take place due to social distancing recommendations. To maximize the impact of dairy farmers’ checkoff investment, Midwest Dairy has shifted the funding to focus on meeting the demand for dairy at food pantries in Midwestern communities through Community Relief Grants. Dairy farmers can apply for Community Relief Grants on MidwestDairy.com.
GENYOUth Offering Emergency Grants to Help Deliver Meals to Students
Dairy farmers have supported childhood nutrition initiatives for over a century, including increasing access to nutritious meals in schools. School shutdowns due to COVID-19 have left over 54.8 million children affected, 30 million of which depend on the school meal program for a substantial portion of their daily nutrition. GENYOUth Foundation has established a COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund, available to all schools, to provide up to $3,000 per school to purchase a variety of resources needed for meal distribution and delivery. Midwest Dairy has committed some previously approved youth wellness funds to assist schools in our Midwest Dairy region. Our dairy farmer leadership has also approved a proposal to designate a portion of these funds to support deficit areas across the country, ensuring all children can benefit from this program, regardless of where they live. If schools in your area need these resources, please direct them to www.MidwestDairy.com’s home page to find a link to the grant application.
As news related to COVID-19 continues to evolve, we continue to update the home page of MidwestDairy.com with expanded resources for farmers, partners and consumers. Whether someone is looking for answers to staffing questions, best practices for keeping their family or employees healthy or resources to share with families and partners who are looking for virtual resources to share dairy’s on-farm story, these landing pages are being updated regularly. Visit www.midwestdairy.com to learn more about how dairy checkoff is adapting to help continue driving dairy sales in this ever-changing environment. More than ever, our organizations are unifying across the country to share ideas and help support farmers through these historic circumstances.