Food insecurity is defined by the USDA as limited or uncertain access to adequate food at the household level. Based on 2018 figures, an estimated 37 million Americans, including 11 million children, experience food insecurity in the United States. This number is shocking when compared with the food waste that takes place yearly. It is estimated that the United States wastes 30-40% percent of the food supply, which is not only a social and humanitarian concern, but also a far-reaching environmental issue.
Wasted food is the single largest category of material placed in landfills, which contribute 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Food decomposing in landfills emits methane. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions in the United States. When food is wasted, we are not only losing wholesome food that could have helped families in need, we are also wasting energy and resources invested (land, water, labor) at every level of the supply chain: producing, processing, transporting, preparing, and storing.
Dairy cows and other livestock play an important role in reducing food waste from various industries by eating parts of plants that humans cannot digest. Byproducts like nut hulls and citrus pulp would normally be discarded, but cows use it for energy to produce nutritious milk, literally recycling food back into our supermarkets! Another way to prevent food waste is through food banks. Food banks work closely with partner agencies to recover excess food from various organizations, including grocery manufacturers, retailers and producers, helping to save food from landfills and putting it onto the tables of families in need.
We can all do our part in reducing food waste. Be a part of the solution and check out these tips on reducing food waste in the kitchen. Additionally, try our recipes for delicious ways to use the food you may already have in your fridge and pantry.
Currently, the average food bank recipient receives less than one gallon of milk per year. However, to meet the recommended three servings of milk each day, they need more than 1 gallon per week. Milk is naturally nutrient-rich, containing nine essential nutrients, including 8 grams of high-quality protein per serving and three of the four nutrients missing in the diet of most Americans– calcium, vitamin D and potassium.
Nutrition-related illnesses are more prevalent in food insecure households. One third of households utilizing food banks has a family member living with diabetes and 58% of food bank clients report high blood pressure. Research shows three servings of milk each day can help maintain healthy blood pressure and reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. According to Feeding America, 79% of food insecure households report purchasing cheaper, unhealthy food to provide enough to eat for their families. Milk, yogurt and cheese are affordable sources of high-quality protein. In fact, each serving of milk only costs about a quarter.
Food banks are beginning to address the dairy deficiency at their facilities, which has led to the launch of a program called Milk2MyPlate. This program is working to bring food banks and milk suppliers together with a common goal to provide a consistent supply of fresh milk to those who need it most. September 7th is National Food Bank Day, and you can show your support by taking the #10GallonChallenge! Donate 10 gallons of milk to a local food bank near you, and together we can help end hunger.
Visit thedairyalliance.com for more information about dairy farming, recipes, and more!
Breakfast in the Classroom is an initiative aiming to ensure students have access to a nutritious meal each morning. Originally tested at a single elementary school in Rutherford County, after one year the school reported its highest test scores to date.
This fall the program will launch in three additional elementary schools, of which more than half of the students are enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program. The menu will focus on nutritious options such as dairy, whole grains, and fruits.
A collection of stories related to my work as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with The Dairy Alliance.
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