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10,300 Gallons Of Milk For Hungry Families

Hundreds of local families who stock their kitchens with help from Feeding South Dakota can now add milk to their cereal. That’s thanks to a drive that motivated individuals and businesses to donate 10,300 gallons of milk. People filling their carts during September paid extra to send milk to Feeding South Dakota. Their donations are now out for delivery.

Monday a refrigerated truck backed up to the Feeding South Dakota building. Four hundred gallons rolled out of the cooler and into the warehouse. The milk is the first installment of more than 10,000 gallons. 

Matt Gassen is executive director of Feeding South Dakota.

Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB
Feeding South Dakota's Matt Gassen with The Rev from KBAD Radio.

"I don’t know the last time you’d go to the store and buy a gallon of milk, but it’s not cheap, really," Gassen says. "It’s got a cost to it. So when you’re on a budget and you’re looking at those things, I think that’s one of the things that maybe, as you’re going through a grocery store, that you probably walk past, right? Because you think, ‘Well, I don’t need milk. I can drink water.’"

Without this donation, Gassen says Feeding South Dakota rations the milk it offers.

“Part of what we have on our shelves is cereal, and we know that the cereal is primarily geared toward the children. We know that dry cereal really stinks, and you really want milk. So we really kind of reserved that for families with children,” Gassen says. “Then if we had enough, our next priority would be for seniors because milk is important to them from both a nutritional standpoint and what it does for their bodies, bones, those kinds of things."

"We want to get milk into the hands of a lot of kids and families." - Craig Lehan, Dean Foods

Gassen says people rarely donate dairy products in part because there’s little overproduction dairy suppliers can contribute.

Craig Lehan with Dean Foods/Land O Lakes in Sioux Falls says people checking out at Hy-Vee stores donated gallons with their grocery purchases.

"They’re able to have milk at their table, and so their thoughts, too – as well as ours, why we put the program on – is we want to get milk into the hands of a lot of kids and families who would like to have milk at their dinner table or breakfast table but they unfortunately can’t," Lehan says.

Hunger advocates say they have trouble getting donations because dairy spoils quickly.

Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB
Hy-Vee store director Andy Sutton; Craig Lehan with Dean Foods/Land O Lakes

Andy Sutton is store director at a Sioux Falls Hy-Vee. He says Feeding South Dakota will receive 400 gallons of milk each week to keep the product fresh.

"We’re happy to partner with Dean Foods/Land O Lakes so that we can get fresh milk to Feeding South Dakota every week, and it’s just a great fundraiser to get that perishable item to the customer," Sutton says.

Hy-Vee and Dean Foods/Land O Lakes each added 1,000 gallons to the donation.

Shoppers found encouragement at the checkout and on the radio. Broadcasters with the radio station KBAD motivated people to donate gallons of milk at the stores.

Jeff Koller is known as The Rev on the radio. He says he reminded listeners that people in need often struggle quietly.

“Well, it could be the person living next door to you that has three kids that can’t afford milk for their cereal in the morning. It could be the grandma down on the corner on your block who doesn’t have any milk in her fridge, either. You know, and they’re not going to come over to you and as you for it,” Koller says.

The milk drive is part of a national dairy campaign, but supporters say people are generous when donating a local product – like milk – to local families.

November 28 is Giving Tuesday. Every dollar donated online to Feeding South Dakota is matched dollar-for-dollar until midnight. For a link to donate or to find out how to access support, visit Feeding South Dakota’s website at this link.

Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).