A new effort by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and the Vermont Community Foundation will help ensure milk from dairy farms doesn’t go to waste amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Product will be sent to a temporary food supply for the Vermont Foodbank. The Vermont Community Foundation has made $60,000 available to purchase milk. Vermont’s dairy industry, like all sectors, has been challenged by COVID-19, but it’s essential to Vermonters’ food supply.
“One of the most important parts of this is the farmers getting paid,” said Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts. “It’s not a donation from the dairy farmers of Vermont, we got some private funding from the Vermont Community Foundation’s COVID relief program.”
The effort will also be undertaken by the Dairy Farmers of America and Commonwealth Dairy LLC. Milk will be processed by these producers for a donation of 42,000 cups of yogurt and over 11,500 gallons of 2% milk to the Vermont Foodbank.
“We hope to build on this,” Tebbetts said. “Vermont Community Foundation is taking more donations, if we get more private financing through this, we can buy more milk and distribute to the needy. I think this will be an ongoing effort.”
Starting this week, dairy products will be produced on a weekly basis and donated to the Vermont Foodbank in amounts 1,152 gallons of milk for 10 weeks and 3,500 cases of yogurt throughout the month of May. The Vermont Foodbank serves more than 153,000 individuals each year, and has seen an increase of up to 100% of percent in demand since mid-March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This collaboration highlights the integral role of Vermont dairy farms in our state’s food system,” said Governor Phil Scott. “I applaud these groups for supporting our farmers and Vermonters in need, feeding our most vulnerable and not wasting a valuable and healthy agricultural product.”
“Dairy is a huge part of our rural working landscape and economy—it is also a critical piece of ‘who we are’ as a state,” says Dan Smith, President and CEO of The Vermont Community Foundation. “To be able to respond to a need for milk distribution and help feed Vermonters who are struggling are exactly the type of reasons we created the VT COVID-19 Response Fund, and we’re thrilled to work with such stand-up organizations.”
“The coronavirus pandemic has led to a drastic increase in the number of people in need of help accessing food,” says Vermont Foodbank CEO, John Sayles. “When people are laid off or losing work hours with businesses shut down, their food budgets are hit hard. Meeting the increasing need is an immense task, and we wouldn’t stand a chance if not for creative efforts like this one that connect the resources available with the people who need them.”