April 5, 2016

Michigan Farmers Jumpstate Milk Donations to Flint Kids

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

While thousands of gallons of bottled water are pouring into Flint, Mich., in response to its lead-in-the-pipes crisis, Michigan dairy farmers and processors are responding to an unfulfilled dietary need: milk for kids and families.

“Many of the children affected were from food-insecure households, often not having access to nutritious foods,” says Sharon Toth, registered dietitian and chief executive officer of United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM). “Although milk is the number one food requested at food banks, it’s rarely donated. Milk is especially important for these children because calcium-rich foods like dairy can help mitigate the effects of lead poisoning.”

UDIM has now launched www.FlintMilk.org, to provide a million glasses of milk for the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. Michigan dairy farmers and processors have pledged to match every donation glass-for-glass to help ensure the 1 million glass goal is reached. UDIM has jump-started the project with a $10,000 grant to assist the Food Bank with distribution logistics of moving milk to local pantries.

“The nutrients in milk are essential for growing children, and calcium is known to help block the absorption of lead into the body,” said William E. Kerr, president of the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. “A donation such as this that we can distribute throughout Flint will have a major impact on the children suffering from lead exposure.”

The Kroger Co. is also providing discounted milk pricing to ensure every donated dollar stretches as far as possible in bringing milk to Flint. “Our associates and dairy farm families want to help, and are committed to working with UDIM to create a steady flow of nutrient-rich milk to Flint residents in need,” says Ken McClure, Kroger communications manager.

In the coming months, UDIM will recruit other organizations, athletes and individuals to support  the effort. Already, world champion swimmer Allison Schmitt of Canton, Mich., and Olympic hopeful track star Leah O’Connor of Croswell have donated two truckloads of milk, 68,000 glasses, to the effort.