Guest Columnist

Donate milk, support local children

Leah Rodenberg (from left), Senior Program Manager for Alliant Foundation, and Linda Gorkow, Food Reservoir Director for HACAP, with the Mobile Food Pantry truck at Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) in Hiawatha on Thursday, July 7, 2016. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Leah Rodenberg (from left), Senior Program Manager for Alliant Foundation, and Linda Gorkow, Food Reservoir Director for HACAP, with the Mobile Food Pantry truck at Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) in Hiawatha on Thursday, July 7, 2016. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

For most children, childhood is filled with playing, learning and growing. But for the large number of children who face hunger, even basic staples like milk may be missing. Unfortunately, one in seven children in our community goes to bed hungry and may not have access outside school to such a basic and nutritious drink as milk.

Nationwide, more than 46 million Americans — including 12 million children — are served by Feeding America food banks each year. The HACAP Food Reservoir is a Feeding America food bank serving more than 55,000 Eastern Iowans identified as living with hunger in Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn and Washington counties. In the food reservoir service area, 12.1 percent of people live without enough food to eat.

Living in Iowa, it seems impossible to think that we have so many people living without one of the most basic needs to sustain life: food.

This year marks the fourth consecutive Great American Milk Drive led by Hy-Vee and Dairy Pure Land O’Lakes to provide milk to the HACAP Food Reservoir. All milk provided from the milk drive will be distributed to more than sixty HACAP Food Reservoir nonprofit partner agencies in Linn County. Our goal this year is to raise 50,000 gallons of milk, which would provide enough fresh milk to those in need in our community for one year.

Milk is one of the most requested, but least donated items at the HACAP Food Reservoir, meaning children in need may be missing out on the essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, it supplies. The HACAP Food Reservoir rarely receives fresh milk donations to distribute to our local partner agencies and at local mobile pantries. That’s because while community members are generous with canned and dry goods, many don’t think to donate milk because it’s perishable.

Milk is naturally nutrient-rich. It has 9 essential nutrients, including 8 grams of high-quality protein per serving. Milk is also a key source of calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Unfortunately, children facing hunger are often missing an adequate amount of milk in their diets, leaving them at risk for deficiencies and susceptible to negative health outcomes.

America’s milk brands and dairy farmers are committed to fighting hunger across the United States, through partnerships with Feeding America food banks like the HACAP Food Reservoir. The dairy community has set a nationwide goal of providing 50 million servings of milk to kids and families in need by 2020. To our wonderful sponsors, partners and all those who donate to this milk drive, I give a heartfelt thank you.

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During the Great American Milk Drive taking place throughout the month of March, you can help provide milk to a child in Eastern Iowa. Your small donation at Hy-Vee stores in Cedar Rapids and Marion or online at hacap.org/milk can provide a gallon of milk to a family in need in Linn County.

Help ensure that all children have the potential to play, learn and grow. Please join us in the Great American Milk Drive to deliver highly desired and nutrient-rich gallons of milk to children and families who need it most.

• Linda Gorkow is director of the HACAP Food Reservoir in Hiawatha.

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