DAVENPORT, Iowa – Food pantries in eastern Iowa and western Illinois are being flooded with milk donations under a federal program to buy and distribute nearly $50 million in dairy products to compensate farmers hurt by trade tariffs.
River Bend Foodbank, which partners with food pantries in Whiteside, Lee, Carroll, Bureau and 19 other counties in the two-state region, expects to distribute about 80,000 half-gallons to food pantries across the region through March, CEO Mike Miller told the Quad-City Times.
Locally, that means the food bank will be sending slightly more that 1,000 half-gallons a month total to pantries in all four counties, Nancy Renkes, its vice president and chief partnerships officer, told Sauk Valley Media in an email Dec. 26.
Carroll pantries are redistributing the milk. Shannon-Lanark Food Pantry Executive Director Victoria Mathew said the pantry has received milk twice, with the next distribution on Jan. 7.
“It was fine. It all went quickly,” Mathew said.
Milk sent to the Savanna Food Pantry also has been fresh, Executive Director BarryMeady said.
“It’s been going out as fast as when we get it,” Eady said.
In addition to the milk that will be sent to the pantries, the food bank will bring its mobile pantry to two locations – the Savanna Fire Station on Jan. 26, and St. Patrick Catholic Church in Dixon on March 23. If the expiration date allows, volunteers will distribute milk along with the usual offerings, Renkes said.
The spike in donations comes from a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to help dairy farmers caught in the middle of President Donald Trump’s trade disputes with Mexico, China and Canada.
Tariffs have cost American dairy farmers more than $1 billion since May.
The USDA program is helpful but challenging because milk has a limited shelf life and the food bank program lacks distribution volunteers, Miller said.
Patrons can call their local food pantries with questions about the availability of milk and other items.