Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Food banks flooded with surplus milk they can't store

Food banks often have little capacity to store fresh milk.
(Ohio Valley Resource photo by Glynis Board)
A glut of fresh-milk donations from the federal government is driving up administrative costs at food banks across the country.

Dairy farmers have been struggling in recent years because of low milk prices, overproduction, and here lately, the trade dispute with China. In addition to releasing $12 billion in aid for farmers hurt by the trade war, the Trump administration has allocated $1.2 billion to purchasing commodities and distributing them as hunger relief, Glynis Board reports for Ohio Valley Resource, a public-radio service that covers Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.

"Since the federal purchases started in August, the government has bought more than $50 million worth of milk and shipped it to food banks. But the food doesn’t come with any help to offset extra administrative costs," Board reports. Food banks do get reimbursements for administrative costs from the federal government, but such reimbursements don't cover the increase in expenses caused by these huge donations of perishable milk.

That's a problem because the donated milk is in liquid form, and most food banks don't have adequate refrigerated storage space for that much perishable food, nor the capacity to distribute it. Joshua Lohnes, a doctoral student at West Virginia University's Food Justice Lab, told Board that it costs food banks $2 a mile to distribute food in remote rural areas. He said aid groups are talking with the state Department of Agriculture and state legislators about how to better distribute the surplus milk.

In a recent article in Environment and Planning, Lohnes argued that government policies have essentially forced food banks to serve the needs of industrial food operations and that such policies don't address the issues that lead to hunger and food insecurity, Board reports.

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