Milk is a staple on school lunch trays of kids across the country. Midwest Dairy does not want milk consumption to decrease as COVID-19 closes schools.
Rural school districts had to change their food distribution to include school bus drop-off or curbside meal service. “Milk served cold is best,” says Amanda Hagedorn, wellness manager for Midwest Dairy. “We know schools had to transition fast to feeding kids, and food safety is important.”
So, Midwest Dairy wants to keep the milk, whether chocolate or white, cold during transport. They are handing out free cooler bags to schools delivering food directly to students, and providing barrel coolers to store milk onsite for student pickup.
Midwest Dairy serves the central part of the U.S., including 10 states from Arkansas to Minnesota and Illinois to Nebraska. To date, it has provided more than 1,500 cooler bags and barrel coolers throughout the region.
The soft-sided coolers are a great fit for those small-town schools delivering milk cartons using a bus system, Hagedorn notes. The barrel cooler typically stays at the school and can hold up to two crates of milk at a time.
“We hope this alleviates some of the stress put on schools and workers,” she says. “Instead of focusing on food safety, they can focus on just feeding kids. For some students, this may be the only meal they receive, so it is super important to us that we are helping provide that for them, especially the dairy component.”
Hagedorn also is a registered dietitian. “I want to ensure students are receiving the best nutrition always, especially during a time of need such as the COVID-19 outbreak, which is creating economic hardships on families.”
She says it is important that kids get their three servings of dairy products every day, whether that is from fluid milk, cheese or yogurt. Milk is a great source of calcium, along with vitamins A and D.
Helping rural schools
“We are very thankful for our dairy farmers and the hard work they do,” Hagedorn says. “They are helping feed kids. They are very passionate about schools in local hometowns.”
Midwest Dairy serves 6,500 dairy farmers in the 10-state region. Dairy producers invest 15 cents for every 100 pounds of milk they sell. Midwest Dairy receives 10 cents of this mandatory funding to provide regional dairy industry programs.
The remaining 5 cents goes to the National Dairy Board to fund national promotional, research and export programs. These programs encompass areas such as health and wellness and school food service.
Even during this time of crisis in the dairy industry with milk prices dropping and farmers dumping milk because of excess supply, the dairy industry and its farmers are finding a way to give back.
Through the partnership between dairy farmers and GENYOUth, Midwest Dairy launched the COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund, Hagedorn says. The fund allows schools nationwide and especially in Missouri to apply for grants up to $3,000 per school building.
The money is used for the purchase of a variety of resources, such as protective gear for food service sanitation and safety, all to ensure children continue to receive the nutritious meals — including milk and other dairy products — they need, Hagedorn notes.