MERIDIAN — Idaho families struggling with hunger just got a boost from Dairy West, which recently donated a new refrigerated truck to the Idaho Foodbank to increase the nonprofit's ability to safely store milk and other perishable food products and deliver them to food pantries throughout the state.
Dairy West, formerly known as United Dairymen of Idaho, represents Idaho and Utah dairy farmers.
Adorned with a vehicle wrap that proclaims, "Feeding Families – Building Healthy Communities," the 26-foot 2020 Kenworth T370 refrigerated truck cost $115,000 and can store roughly 1,800 gallons of fresh milk.
According to Karen Vauk, president and CEO of Idaho Foodbank, dairy foods are among the most requested but least available items at food pantries nationwide.
"Dairy proteins are so critical to a nutritious diet and there is a huge demand for milk, cheese, and yogurt among those we serve," Vauk said. "It's easy for people to give canned and dry goods, but the perishable nature of dairy foods makes it challenging to donate. Dairy West's generous donation of a refrigerated truck is a game changer for the Idaho Foodbank, our partners, and the families we serve."
Meanwhile, Albertsons customers donated $20,867 to benefit the Foodbank and its clients via a "Moo Bucks" campaign the retailer staged with Dairy West the first two weeks of June.
The Foodbank will use the funds to purchase and distribute dairy foods to clients and give them vouchers to redeem for milk.
Dairy West CEO Karianne Fallow said the milk gap in the U.S. is significant and daunting.
"On average, people served by food banks receive the equivalent of less than 1 gallon of milk per person per year, but you need to drink 68 gallons a year to meet the FDA's daily recommendations," she said. "One in seven Americans relies on food banks for nutritional assistance, and here at home in one of the top agricultural-producing states in the country, more than 210,000 Idahoans – including nearly 70,000 children – are food-insecure."
Fallow said milk and other dairy foods are a great choice for people struggling with hunger.
"Dollar for dollar, milk is one of the most nutrient-packed foods a family can have on the table," she said. "One serving of milk provides eight grams of protein and nine essential nutrients, including three of the top nutrients commonly missing in the American diet."
Fallow said Idaho dairy farm families have worked closely with local food pantries for decades to provide their food-insecure neighbors with nourishment they desperately need. And since 1998, Dairy West and its predecessor, United Dairymen of Idaho, have supported the Idaho Foodbank with cash contributions.
Fallow has been a member of the Idaho Foodbank's board of directors since 2014.