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Food bank celebrates 5 millionth serving of milk

GENEVA – Only three years ago, milk was the least-donated item to the Northern Illinois Food Bank, yet it was the most requested item by families in need.

Because of its shelf life and need for refrigeration, about one gallon of milk could be provided for a family per year, food bank spokeswoman Donna Lake said.

But Monday, the food pantry celebrated distributing its 5 millionth serving of milk through its Milk2MyPlate Program with a luncheon and recognition of dairy farmers, the Midwest Dairy Association, and other participating agencies at its Geneva headquarters.

Steve Ericson, director of food procurement at the food bank, said the pilot program is now delivering 15,000 gallons a month to 42 community food pantries across 12 Illinois counties, including Kane. 

The Milk2MyPlate program relies on a partnership with regional dairy manufacturer Prairie Farms Dairy, which provides a below-market price to the food bank, and drivers who not only deliver, but also put the milk in the coolers, Ericson said.

“Forty-eight hours before the milk is in the pantry, it was in a cow,” Ericson said.

The food bank splits the cost with the 42 pantries so their clients all have access to fresh milk, said Hester Bury, director of corporate and foundation giving for the food bank.

A $60 donation will provide a gallon of milk for 52 weeks for one family, officials said.

Feeding America identified the need for milk nationally through its food bank network, in what Jerod Matthews called “a lightbulb moment” in realizing the need for milk. He praised the food bank, its partner organizations, dairies and farmers for making Milk2MyPlate a success.

Calling himself a “one-man show,” Matthews said he was taking this model and sharing it nationwide. So far, he said, it has been picked up in Chicago, Oakland, California and Kansas City, Missouri.

Northern Illinois Food Bank’s Milk2MyPlate program has been nationally recognized by The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and serves as a model for Feeding America food banks across the nation. 

Kane County Board member Mike Kenyon, R-South Elgin, who is a member of the Kane County Farm Bureau, said this type of giving “is what makes America great.”

Donations can be made through the food bank’s website,

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