My life path didn’t move as a straight arrow to where I am today, dedicating my days to fighting hunger and trying to help kids and families get the nutrition they need to fuel happy and productive childhoods.
While I didn’t know at the time where each step would lead, it’s clear looking back that each one brought me closer to my work today with Feeding America. I’m grateful to work with the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. It’s been an honor to see up-close all the good done by food banks – and especially by the staff, volunteers and donors – across the country.
However, I quickly learned that even Feeding America and its nationwide network of food banks has limitations when it comes to regularly providing enough of the nutritious items that kids and families need. For example, nutrient-rich perishable foods – the fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products that many of us take for granted – can be problematic to donate and store. Once perishables arrive at a food bank, there may be storage and refrigeration concerns, making it tough to meet the demand of our clients.
Milk is one of the most requested, yet least donated items at food banks. I’ve heard our clients say that if they couldn’t get milk from their food bank, they just wouldn’t have it. That’s why, a few years ago, Feeding America partnered with America’s milk companies and dairy farmers to create The Great American Milk Drive, the first-ever national program designed to help deliver fresh gallons of milk to the kids and families we serve. The milk drive has been a bit of a passion project for me – and it’s been incredible to see the positive impact that it’s had for food banks, and most importantly, the communities that we serve.
Since 2014, a simple idea – to make it easy for consumers to give milk and for food banks to accept and distribute it – has evolved in ways we couldn’t have imagined. Just this season, thanks to the generosity of donors across the country, The Great American Milk Drive delivered its one millionth gallon of milk, making it one of Feeding America’s most innovative partnerships to-date.
Through this program, all 200 Feeding America member food banks across the country have been able to provide additional milk to families in need, including distribution through school pantry programs, mobile pantries that serve rural areas, and even a new direct distribution channel that makes it easier and less-expensive for food banks to purchase milk directly.
Through Feeding America, and volunteering with other organizations, I’ve experienced the benefits of giving, and I do believe that it is a true blessing to give. So this year, as you gather with family and friends around the holiday table, think about helping out your neighbor in need. We don’t always know the face of hunger – but we do know that small efforts go a long way for those who struggle with food insecurity. While the need can be even greater during the holidays, your talents, time and donations can make a huge impact for your community at any time of year.
Happy Holidays and Happy Giving,
Jerod Matthews is the Senior National Account Manager at Feeding America, the country’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, a powerful and efficient network of 200 food banks across the country. Jerod spent over 10 years in the food and magazine industry before taking his talents to the non-profit organization where he manages many strategic and innovative partnerships such as The Great American Milk Drive. Jerod also volunteers in his own community through his national fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, at the Rho Gamma Gamma food pantry.