June is Dairy Month!
According to the International Dairy Foods Association, Dairy Month (originally National Milk Month) began in 1937 to promote drinking milk. It has become a fun annual tradition celebrating dairy's delicious and nutrient-rich contributions to the health, wellness and enjoyment of families across America.
This year more than ever, Dairy Month provides the perfect time to celebrate the nutritional value of milk and milk products for all Americans, especially those who need our help the most.
Domestic hunger is an issue that affects one in six Americans, including more than one in five children. In the land of plenty, this is an alarming statistic.
This means not only are our children are hungry, but they also might not be getting the nutrients they need such as fiber, vitamin D, calcium and potassium. And, as highlighted in the recent Wellness Impact report, this puts them at risk for adverse effects on their health and academic performance.
However, three out of four of these nutrients are delivered by dairy foods, making dairy an excellent value per calorie. In fact, milk is one of the top five foods requested by the clients of Feeding America's nationwide network of food banks, yet dairy foods only comprise about 5 percent of total pounds of food distributed per year.
That equates, on average, to less than one gallon of milk per year per person.
For nearly 100 years, National Dairy Council (NDC) has been at the forefront of advancing health and wellness, particularly among children, and was founded on behalf of dairy farmers. And dairy farmers believe that our children deserve better, which is why the dairy checkoff program through NDC has joined Feeding America and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to form the Future of Food Partnership.
Together, we are helping ensure Americans have access to one of their basic human needs?food?but also helping ensure that their food is nutrient-rich.
The Future of Food partnership is focused on increasing the availability of nutritious, safe and affordable foods across the country through innovative efforts to help alleviate hunger.
This month, the partnership will award the first-ever nutrition initiative grants of $10,000 each to 10 food banks within the Feeding America network. These grants are designated to support nutrition education and increased access to dairy products and other in-demand nutrient-rich foods.
To help meet food banks' demand for dairy, NDC and its state and regional affiliates also are launching grassroots efforts nationwide.
Beginning in June Dairy Month, "Give Good with Dairy" will kick off in local communities to drive donations of milk, cheese and yogurt directly to food banks through retail partnerships, voucher programs and local events.
We also are hosting a photo contest where you can share what you are doing to give good.
So celebrate Dairy Month with us! Join our Future of Food efforts and together we can make a difference for families and children nationwide.
Visit www.nationaldairycouncil.org to learn more about our programs, share our dairy delicious recipes, and connect with us in social media to work together towards building a healthier, hunger-free America.
Jean Ragalie, RD, is the President of National Dairy Council (NDC). In this role, she leads the development and implementation of nutrition affairs strategies and relationships with leading government and non-government health, nutrition and school professional organizations.