Aug 15, 2020
Reliable access to fresh dairy is vital to people in economically vulnerable populations, especially children.
Reliable access to fresh dairy is vital to people in economically vulnerable populations, especially children. When the COVID-19 pandemic began to cause a regional food scarcity crisis the FeedHV community food network, led by HVADC and Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, joined forces with Scenic Hudson to purchase and donate thousands of pounds of high quality local dairy products to agencies with food assistance programs. Acquired at cost from Hudson Valley Fresh and Ronnybrook Farm Dairy, the dairy products were donated to community assistance organizations focusing on feeding children in need, including The Kingston YMCA Farm Project, Dutchess Outreach, The Friends of Hudson Youth and The People’s Place.
FeedHV is The Hudson Valley’s food rescue and harvesting network dedicated to meeting the needs of neighbors while mitigating the impacts of food waste. Covering Dutchess, Columbia, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Sullivan and Ulster counties in New York, the FeedHV community aims to reduce food insecurity and food waste throughout the region.
“Scenic Hudson has a strong history of supporting our regional food system and farmland preservation,” said Todd Erling, HVADC Executive Director. “At this time of extreme need, the support that they are giving FeedHV has enabled us to contribute to thousands of meals in three counties – feeding our neighbors, mostly children, with fresh local products.”
With Scenic Hudson’s support, between May and July, FeedHV has been able to distribute over 5,600 gallons of milk, 600 quarts of yogurt, 1,200 yogurt cups and 600 eight-ounce packs of butter to the agencies. That’s nearly 50,000 pounds! Since the initial efforts, additional FeedHV and Scenic Hudson collaborations are underway, and more dairy is being purchased which will soon bring the distributions to approximately 75,000 total pounds.
Helping Communities and Farms
“Scenic Hudson is delighted to partner with the Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation’s FeedHV program by helping to provide locally produced food to youth programs in Kingston, Poughkeepsie and Hudson while simultaneously supporting those farm families supplying the fresh food,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan. “Conserving Hudson Valley farms has long been a vital part of Scenic Hudson’s mission. We also are committed to ensuring all valley residents, particularly those facing the greatest hardships in our cities, benefit from our work. This collaboration helps to accomplish both during these tumultuous times,” he continued.
The ability for the FeedHV dairy donation program to simultaneously support both the communities in need and regional dairy farms makes it a win win situation. While produce and meat farms across the region have weathered the pandemic well, with consumers increasingly choosing farm stands and CSAs over supermarkets, dairy farms continue to be impacted by shrinking markets and razor thin margins.
“The extended Ronnybrook family has been heartened by the opportunity to work with the HVADC and Scenic Hudson in providing fresh locally produced dairy products to neighboring families during this time of need. The program is especially noteworthy in that it not only has helped local families in sourcing nutritious food , it has also provided an economic boost to local dairy farms during this period of low milk prices and over supply,” said Rick Osofsky of Ronneybrook Farm Dairy.
While the pandemic has impacted milk sales, quality is as high as ever. The superior flavor and freshness of the products supplied by Ronnybrook and Hudson Valley Fresh has not gone unnoticed by recipient organizations. It is more common for food banks and agencies to primarily receive donations close to their expiration date, so to receive fresher products makes distribution and consumption safer and, undoubtedly, more delicious.
“The Impact was Immediate.” – Peter Frank, Friends of Hudson Youth
Friends of Hudson Youth (FHY) recently spoke with HVADC about the effect the dairy donation has had on the organization’s services. FHY is a nonprofit with a public-private partnership with the City of Hudson Department of Youth, providing resources for enrichment programs and meal services. When the Youth Center closed in March due to the pandemic, children from Hudson’s economically challenged communities lost access to as many as 50 free meals a day. The Youth Department pivoted to become an emergency food pantry and the Friends redirected their fundraising resources to help with the costs of food and the new equipment needed to distribute it safely.
“The need was greater than we thought,” said Peter Frank, Friends of Hudson Youth Board of Directors Member, adding that at their peak, 750 people were receiving food pickups or deliveries twice a week. “Mary Ann (Johnson, HVADC Deputy Director) called me up and said, ‘can you take a lot of milk.’ I said, ‘yes!’ it was great.”
Frank said that nutrition has been paramount to the food pantry’s mission, as they have looked to provide primarily meat, produce and dairy. Milk is most often supplied to food pantries near their expiration date and in gallons, so it some times goes to waste even if there is still a need. Fresh milk in pint containers made a difference in terms of usability and distribution.
“The milk we are getting is fresh, local and has traveled the fewest food miles possible,” Frank continued. “It was a real gift and people coming in responded right away.”
As the fallout from the pandemic continues to be felt throughout our community the value of organizations such as The Kingston YMCA Farm Project, Dutchess Outreach, The Friends of Hudson Youth and The People’s Place, is incalculable. FeedHV, HVADC and Scenic Hudson are continuing to partner with additional donations to support their work and bring Hudson Valley neighbors affected by food scarcity the highest quality dairy the region has to offer.
To learn more about FeedHV, or to become a donor or volunteer, visit www.feedhv.org.