Banking Nutrition

Disclosure: I have partnered with Milk to bring you this second of three posts about the Great American Milk Drive. Though I have been compensated for this post, my thoughts and my words are my own.

There are a number of things that we can take for granted. This week alone, I have set foot in a grocery store three times. Why? Because I forgot something on the list, or I ran out of milk, and once just to kill time before an appointment. It’s a luxury.

A luxury that is not afforded to everyone.

Recently, I visited Gleaners Food Bank which services over 250 partners in over 21 counties here in Indiana. That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of need.

The Map of Meal Gap study estimates that 311,290 people in Gleaners’ service area are food insecure, including 118,800 CHILDREN – nearly one out of every four.

There were many things that struck me during my visit to Gleaners, but there was one word that kept ringing true – dignity. It was a word that Kristen Grills, who took me on my tour, emphasized. And it was evident from the first stop on our tour.

  
I got to experience the beginning of a shift of a large volunteer group.  Before the work begins, volunteers watch a video which not only explains some of the functions of the bank, but also highlights some of the people who benefit from the hard work they are about to do. As some of the Hoosiers shared their stories on camera, it became very evident that any one of us could be in the same situation.
The facility itself is amazing; it covers  297,000 square feet, yet staffs only 70 people. Gleaners relies on a force of volunteers (almost 30,000 volunteered last year) and donations. These donations come from a myriad of sources – community corporate partners, community drives, etc. The amazing staff organizes the items donated, sets up the volunteers who help to assemble collections to be shipped to various local pantries, and utilizes the budget to buy items that are still needed.

Seeing the layout of the facility and organization of operations, it is clear that Gleaners feels a social responsibility to nutrition. They offer recipes and ways to include various items that they offer in well-rounded meals. They are committed to getting the “most vulnerable people proper nutrition”.

This would include offering items like milk.

I found that milk is one of the least donated items, at Gleaners and other food banks nation wide. One of the main reasons is that it has a short shelf life  and therefore the storage of it is complicated. Yet, think about how often we use milk. I use it when I cook, eat cereal, in beverages, or even on its own. Not to mention milk’s essential nutrients, including 8 grams of high-quality protein per serving and three of the top nutrients most likely to be missing in the American diet – calcium, vitamin D and potassium.

Food banks are only able to provide, on average, the equivalent of  less than one gallon of milk per  person, per year. That’s really limiting families’ access to a nutrient-rich beverage. I can use a gallon of milk in less than a week. In the past week, I have used milk as a beverage, in my coffee, to make pancakes, to make mac and cheese, and several other dishes.

The Great American Milk Drive works to bridge this gap by aiding the donation to Feeding America food banks across the country. Your donation can help to fill an empty glass, add milk to a recipe, or splash over that bowl of cereal.

Let’s make a difference and fill a bowl, or glass, or two for someone in our local community. Let’s make sure that no glass goes empty. Please visit my Tales from the Poop Deck Crowdrise page and make your donation today.

Also, stay tuned to my Facebook page this weekend. I am hosting a little giveaway this Saturday. Stay ready.

Captain…out.

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