Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Checkoff Watch: Farmers, companies team up on ‘Great American Milk Drive’

Published on 11 June 2014
Florida dairyman John Larson saw the appreciation of the people who were lined up more than a block long to receive a free gallon of milk.

Larson was at a kickoff event in Miami for the Great American Milk Drive, organized by MilkPEP, Feeding America and the checkoff-funded National Dairy Council. This effort will drive consumer donations of milk for those who need it most.

“It makes you feel proud as a farmer to not just provide food and fiber to the people who shop at grocery stores but to those in poverty who are not getting nature’s most perfect food,” Larson said. “The biggest thing that made an impression on me was seeing the response in people’s eyes. They were so appreciative to have an opportunity to get milk.”



The Great American Milk Drive encourages consumers to donate as little as $5 at the website or by texting “milk” to 27722 to purchase milk for hungry families. They also will be able to donate through participating retailers later this year.

Hunger impacts one in six Americans. Feeding America food banks only have enough milk to provide, on average, one gallon per person annually.

Paul Rovey, an Arizona dairy farmer and chairman of Dairy Management Inc., attended the program’s national launch at City Harvest Food Bank in New York on April 2. Nine other events involving dairy farmers and state and regional checkoff staffs took place around the country.

Rovey is pleased to see Feeding America – the nation’s largest food bank network – emphasize milk’s strong nutrition profile.

“Their focus and drive is to not just give people something to eat but to give them good nutrition,” Rovey said. “I milk cows, and that’s how I get my paycheck, but we’re providing really good food that has really good nutrition. I benefit from this program, but we’re also providing a great service to the population in getting good nutrition to them.” PD On the web


  • Milk Life – Visit to make a milk donation or to learn more about the Great American Milk Drive.
  • Dairy Management Inc. – Visit to learn more about how the checkoff works to grow dairy sales, plus other farmer priority areas.
  • DairyGood – Visit to learn how checkoff-led efforts are building consumer confidence in dairy.

Local spotlight

Rick Van Ryn and Jay Novacek

Dairy MAX teams with Dallas food bank Texas dairy farmer Rick Van Ryn joined Dairy MAX at the North Texas Food Bank for its Great American Milk Drive kickoff event in Dallas. A Dean Foods representative showed his company’s commitment to fighting hunger by donating 500 gallons of Oak Farms milk.

“We saw people less fortunate than us who need milk,” Van Ryn said. “People are forced to buy cheaper products and aren’t getting the nutrients from milk. We were really excited to give the milk away. Once we get people used to doing it this way, we hope this will continue for the next 20, 30 years.” Former Dallas Cowboy Jay Novacek also spoke about the need to have milk in food banks and how hunger affects many people in the local community.

mark duffy

The New England Dairy Promotion Board teamed with the Greater Boston Food Bank where Massachusetts dairy farmer Mark Duffy spoke about farmers’ commitment to making this program succeed. “The word is proud,” Duffy said. “It’s great to see the entire industry – milk companies and farmers – engaged in a very sophisticated system to get food to Americans who need it.


Given our ability to produce food, we certainly don’t want to see people who can’t get the nutrition they need.” The event included representatives from HP Hood, Oakhurst Dairy and Garelick Farms, in addition to New England Patriots football player Devin McCourty.

Kyle Rudolph and Ken Herbranson

Minnesota dairy farmer Ken Herbranson served as emcee of Midwest Dairy Association’s event at Second Harvest Heartland, the state’s largest food bank. Kemps and Land O’Lakes donated 1,500 gallons of milk. “We walked out after the event and there were cars lined up and down the street as though they were at McDonald’s waiting to pick up their food,” Herbranson said. “It was almost all seniors.

That was an eye-opener. When you see a line of elderly people who paid their dues and now they’re short of food; they’re not there because they love to be there. It was a stark reminder that things aren’t so wonderful for everybody.” Minnesota Vikings player Kyle Rudolph was at the event and ceremoniously presented Second Harvest with its first two gallons of milk.

John Larson

The Florida Dairy Farmers were at the Abriendo Puertas community resource center in Miami with representatives from Feeding America and Feeding South Florida speaking about the nation’s hunger crisis. McArthur Dairy donated 500 gallons of milk that Florida dairy farmer John Larson helped distribute to hundreds of families in attendance.“It was a very eye-opening experience,” Larson said. “One lady said, ‘My doctor told me I need to drink milk every day, but I can’t afford it.’ Another man told us ‘I haven’t had milk in months. We get what we can from the food banks, but they never have milk. If I know they’ll have milk now, it’ll be the first thing I ask for.’”

PHOTO ONE: Texas dairy farmer Rick Van Ryn, right, was joined by former Dallas Cowboy Jay Novacek at the North Texas Food Bank.

PHOTO TWO: Massachusetts dairy farmer Mark Duffy spoke of the industry’s commitment to fighting hunger at the Greater Boston Food Bank.

PHOTO THREE: Minnesota Vikings player Kyle Rudolph helped dairy farmer Ken Herbranson, right, and Midwest Dairy Association kick off the Great American Milk Drive at the Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank.

PHOTO FOUR: Florida dairy farmer John Larson, left, helped families in Miami receive 500 gallons of milk.

Your Dairy Checkoff in Action – The following update is provided by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program on behalf of America’s dairy producers and dairy importers. DMI is the domestic and international planning and management organization responsible for increasing sales of and demand for dairy products and ingredients.