“It’s such a passion project for us,” he told DairyReporter of the project, which launched in April 2014.
“We had been talking for a while about the need for milk and thought what an amazing place it is for milk companies to get involved in helping to solve the problem."
DariyReporter spoke with Zaborsky about the initiative and how manufacturers, dairy companies and retailers can get involved.
DairyReporter: Why did the Great American Milk Drive start?
Victor Zaborsky: Milk isn’t getting to people. It’s such a huge problem. About 54m Americans are food insecure. Feeding America feeds the vast majority of them - I think it’s 49m - but on average, they get about one gallon of milk per person per year. When you think about consumers should be getting about three servings a day, which equates to about 68 gallons of milk per year.
It’s a huge gap to fill and one that won’t be solved over night, but we thought we could make an impact. We created the Great American Milk Drive, which is a fundraising for regular people by donating dollars that we then make into coupons or milk vouchers that we distribute to Feeding America food banks. They give the vouchers to clients and they then go to any retail locations to redeem for free milk.
DR: What is the goal? What have the results been thus far?
VZ: Currently we’ve donated more than 6m servings of milk, so we’re really excited about the momentum of the program. We do have very lofty goals; we’d love to solve this problem, but it’s not going to happen overnight. The next phase of the drive is creating a purchase model for milk in food banks
We’re looking to make it truly sustainable with a more reliable, consistent supply of milk into the food bank system. In 2016, we’re looking at some pilot programs with a couple of partnerships between local dairy councils and dairy companies … It is a purchase model, stepping away from The Great American Milk Drive and into a way that knows the need is so great and it can’t be solved strictly by donations.
We’re trying to make connections to get more milk into pantries. We’re trying to help find funding to purchase milk form milk companies at a discounted way, not unlike what happens with school milk.
DR: How can manufacturers/businesses in the industry get involved?
VZ: To date, truly the best way to get involved right now is still through the Great American Milk Drive cause and retail, but what we’re doing for this purchase model is going through and picking some pilot markets to show the business case to show how it can work and to show people all of the logistics.
They won’t be dropping milk to the food bank; they’ll be dropping it off to the food pantries. Basically, there are 200 food banks that are like food warehouses. All of the pantries and agencies that actually distribute food to the needy go and have product delivered from there … For 2016, we want to work through all the challenge to make this truly work.
For milk companies, we’re working with many of them to bring the drive to their own retail channels. It’s a great opportunity to show their customers, both grocery stores and end customers, about how they care about communities and what an important issue hunger is and how milk companies can help.
DR: Do you see this as an opportunity to help grow sales as well?
VZ: Absolutely. We know that social responsibility is one of the top consumer drivers, especially for millennials. As the dairy industry and milk companies really rally around the cause of helping kids have access to nutrient rich milk, I think it does help good will and feelings toward milk.
Ultimately, it encourages people to drink milk. Consumers aware of the cause are more likely to purchase and consume more milk. It is helping the industry. It’s not only doing good or people but it is doing good for the industry