USDA To Buy $50 Million In Milk, Donate It To Food Banks

While there is a well-document excess of milk produced in America, many families still struggle to afford basic, nutritious groceries (such as milk). The U.S. Department Of Agriculture came up with what we think is a pretty nifty solution: Buy that excess milk and donate it to food banks.

Marketplace reports the USDA will spend $50 million to purchase milk from dairy farmers, who are grappling with historically low milk prices and a 4 percent drop in Americans' milk consumption since last year. The estimated 12-15 million gallons that money buys will then go to soup kitchens and food pantries. It's the first time in history the USDA has made such a move, and honestly, it's hard to find a way in which this isn't a win-win.

"Milk is one of the most requested nutrition staples at food banks, yet it is rarely available," says Julia Kadison, chief executive officer at industry group MilkPEP, said in a statement lauding the initiative. "And as one out of two kids ages 9 and up are falling short on calcium, vitamin D and potassium—essential nutrients that milk provides—there is an even greater need to make sure milk is getting to children and families who need it most."

I've noticed this first-hand at my local food bank: Milk is often limited to just a half-gallon per family, and most of the milk donated by grocery stores is given away because it's nearing its expiration date. It's still healthy and safe, of course, but it's usually in quite short supply compared to families' demand for it. If the USDA milk-buying program can get more milk to food-insecure families and help bolster dairy farmers' bottom lines when they really need it, then we can toast to that—with a glass of 2 percent.