Monday, November 12, 2018

Washington State is one of THREE states that will not get fresh milk for their food banks until April 2019

by Lindsay Morgan Tracy

According to the National Dairy Council, “The body of science indicates that eating nutritious dairy foods — such as milk, cheese and yogurt — improves bone health, especially in children and adolescents. They are also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and lower blood pressure in adults.”
Thank you for letting me share this piece. Last week after the amazing Poverty to Possibilities summit, I took some of the leftover muffins to a food bank that was open on the evenings so that their clients could enjoy them. (As a side note, I love it when food banks are open during nontraditional times during the week as we know so many folks are working during the day and can’t hit up a food bank that’s only open 9am – 4pm).
As we recently learned in the ALICE report, 42% of our county is struggling to make ends meet or they are in poverty. This is up 10% from two years ago. This is staggering. When many households have to choose to pay rent, utilities or food, they choose to pay rent/utilities and will head to a food bank to get food.
Now back to my night after the UWPC event. I headed to a food bank and got there 10 minutes before it opened. I met with the warehouse manager and weighed the food and a high school volunteer immediately started putting the muffins in individual baggies. As I looked up from the scale, I noticed tons and tons of cereal on the top shelves. OODLES of cereal?!
My contact was busy working to accommodate me and our last minute donation and help manage expectations from the many volunteers in the food bank. Then I couldn’t help but notice the influx of people into the food bank. Now, this food bank isn’t in an urban area. It’s rural so people have to take the time to get there. My contact was busy helping volunteers look for specific items, such as chicken soup as a mom was looking for some - - either boxed or canned - - for her little girl who was sick. “Sorry, we don’t have any this week,” I heard. Ugh.
Then I learned that there is no milk in the state for the food banks. This caused me to pause. The area in the warehouse that had tons of cereal would be distributed to clients but with no milk. This made me think that it’s just like giving crayons to kids and then telling them there was no paper.  I learned that Washington State was one of three states that did not receive bids from local milk vendors therefore it’s very likely that there will be no fresh milk for our food banks from last month to March 2019. While there are plans to work with the dairy industry to get local bids, this is a gap with our food partners that many people do not know about.
What can we do?
·         Help fundraise with “Dollars for Dairy” for your local food bank - here is an example of what you can do.
·         Ask your legislators what they can do and ask for a timeline.
·         Make a monetary donation designated for milk to your local food bank.
·         Volunteer time at a food bank.
·         Work with United Way’s Hunger-Free Pierce County initiative to stay abreast of the work.
Dr. Michael McAfee challenged us to be dogged about our work. YES! He also said we are here because our institutions have lost their capacity to serve. He was spot on. I got up at 4am to write this as I know those folks in the food bank are my people. They need to be of all our people as Dr. McAfee said.
As I left the food bank, I noticed so many kids outside happily playing in the dark while their parents or caregivers received food. And then I got in my truck and slowly started to drive away from the small food bank. It reminded me of the end of the movie Field of Dreams. There were so many cars in the parking lot and more cars pulling up with their lights on. As the camera pans up and out, the cars continue for miles. While the cars didn’t continue for miles in my case, it was lengthy and one where I hope anyone would be truly uncomfortable. But more importantly, I want people to act and advocate. I will.

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