Partnership behind donation of 589,824 servings of milk to aid residents of Flint, Michigan nationally recognized for community sustainability efforts

The 2017 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award winners were announced by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy at a ceremony on June 28, including an honorable mention in Outstanding Achievement in Community Partnerships presented to four Michigan organizations. Pictured, left to right: Joe Mounger, Food Bank of Eastern Michigan; Kyle Powell, The Kroger Company; Sheila Burkhardt, Michigan Milk Producers Association; Jeff Dwyer, MSU Extension; Ken Nobis, Michigan Milk Producers Association; William Kerr, Food Bank of Eastern Michigan; Cathy Blankenship, Food Bank of Eastern Michigan; and Matt Nuckels, Emcee, Eastview Farms.

ROSEMONT, Ill. — The Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA), Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, The Kroger Co. of Michigan and Michigan State University (MSU) Extension were together honored by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy for their efforts supporting food insecure families with milk donations in the wake of the Flint Water Crisis in 2016.

For coming together to bring over 36,000 gallons of milk to a community in crisis, the organizations received an honorable mention for Outstanding Achievement in Community Partnerships by the Innovation Center during its sixth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards in a June 28 Chicago ceremony.

The community partners, armed with information on milk’s nutrient-dense profile, are helping aide residents of Flint, Michigan during an ongoing crisis in which they are susceptible to lead poisoning from contaminated water. A healthy diet that includes nutrient-rich foods can help protect children and families from the harmful effects of lead poisoning and have a positive effect on overall health.

“Milk has always been high on the list of requested items to support food insecure families, but often is in short supply,” said William Kerr, President of the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. “The nutrient rich milk donated by the Michigan Milk Producers Association provided immediate health benefits to the residents of Flint during a time of crisis.”

In addition to community sustainability, the Innovation Center’s award program recognizes dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose practices improve the well-being of people, animals and the planet. Award winners represent the U.S. dairy community’s voluntary efforts toward continuous improvement in sustainability.

“This year’s winners demonstrated impressive leadership and creativity in the application of technology and other practices that protect our land, air and water. And they’re proactive about building strong relationships with their communities and employees,” said Barbara O’Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “Based on this year’s nominations, it’s clear that all sizes of dairy farms and companies use sustainable practices because it’s good for the environment, good for their community and good for business.”

Judges evaluated nominations based on their economic, environmental and community impact. The independent judging panel — including experts working with and throughout the dairy community — also considered learning, innovation, scalability and replicability.

“These award-winning practices can serve as models for other farmers, too,” said Jason Bateman, dairy farmer, 2016 award winner and one of this year’s judges. “Winners made breakthroughs, and they improved everyday practices. It’s inspiring to see people collaborate with partners outside of dairy and build on ideas from other industries.”

From farm to table, transparency and ingenuity drive dairy forward, as demonstrated in the newly released 2016 Sustainability Report, which describes the Innovation Center’s strategic plan focused on social responsibility. The plan was developed by dairy community leaders in recognition of the changing consumer and customer marketplace where health, environmental and ethical practices are of increasing interest.

About the Michigan Milk Producers Association:

Michigan Milk Producers Association, established in 1916, is a member owned and operated dairy cooperative serving approximately 2,000 dairy farmers in Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio. Each year, MMPA’s dairy farm families produce over half a billion gallons of milk for families in Michigan, the U.S. and the world.

About the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan:

Serving local families in need since 1981, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan has grown to provide over 25 million pounds of food each year through more than 415 partner agencies in 22 counties. Partner agencies consist of local soup kitchens, homeless shelters and food pantries who strive to feed more than 300,000 people who struggle with hunger throughout eastern Michigan.

About The Kroger Co. of Michigan:

Incorporated in Michigan in 1909 and headquartered in Novi, The Kroger Co. of Michigan includes 19,000 associates, 126 Kroger stores, 75 fuel centers, 104 pharmacies and the Michigan Dairy. The Kroger Co. (NYSE:KR) is one of the world’s largest grocery retailers and the nation’s largest operator of traditional grocery stores, with fiscal 2016 sales of $115.3 billion. Kroger employs more than 443,000 associates who serve customers in almost 3,000 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia under two dozen local banner names, all of which share the same belief in building strong local ties and brand loyalty with our customers. Recognized by Forbes as the most generous company in America, Kroger supports hunger relief, breast cancer awareness, the military and their families, and more than 30,000 schools and grassroots organizations. Kroger contributes food and funds equal to 276 million meals a year through more than 100 Feeding America food bank partners. A leader in supplier diversity, Kroger is a proud member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber’s Million Dollar Club.

About Michigan State University Extension:

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension helps people improve their lives by bringing the vast knowledge resources of MSU directly to individuals, communities and businesses.  For more than 100 years, MSU Extension has helped grow Michigan’s economy by equipping Michigan residents with the information that they need to do their jobs better, raise healthy and safe families, build their communities and empower our children to dream of a successful future.