BANGOR, Maine — In what organizers call a unique arrangement, four diverse Maine organizations are teaming up to address hunger relief and support Maine dairy farmers at the same time.
The process includes delivering excess milk from the co-op, Dairy Farmers of America to Pineland Farms Dairy Company in Bangor where it is turned in to cheese.
The agreement will allow the Good Shepherd Food Bank to then pick that up and distribute thousands of pounds of cheese to food insecure Mainers through Maine’s emergency food distribution network.
Pineland Dairy President Mark Whitney said the win-win program will allow them to donate 26,000 pounds of Maine cheddars and jacks over the next five weeks.
Whitney said, “This enables us to find a home for milk and turn it into the product of cheese, a usable product for people that there is definitely a need for and it helps to keep our staff busy today as well.”
Pineland Farms’ donation program was encouraged by one of its investors, the Libra Foundation of Portland. The Foundation indicated its willingness to underwrite the company’s loss of up to $2 million incurred by donating inventory.
Travis Fogler, an owner at Stonyvale Farm in Exeter, Maine, and a member of DFA’s Northeast Area Council said. “Dairy Farmers of America is critical to the ongoing viability of many Maine farms, and therefore creating these markets for our milk in extreme circumstances is vitally important and we are proud to be able to put the milk to good use and support our communities in need.”
President of Good Shepherd Food Bank Kristen Miale welcomes the program in light of ongoing food insecurity in Maine and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Need is increasing across Maine as more community members face financial uncertainty due to job loss or the inability to work due to school closures,” Miale said. “While it will take time to see new patterns of food insecurity emerge, we know the need is rising and the Food Bank is grateful that this partnership will reduce food waste and provide our neighbors with access to Maine-produced products.”
Whitney said after the initial donation they plan to continue providing cheese this way as long as there is a need.
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