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New collaboration supports Maine dairy farmers, helps the hungry

May 13, 2020
Source: Pineland Farms Cheese Co. Making cheese at Pineland Farms Dairy Co. in Bangor.

Auburn — In a unique arrangement, four Maine organizations are teaming up to address hunger relief and support Maine dairy farmers. Good Shepherd Food Bank, Pineland Farms Dairy Co., Libra Foundation, and Dairy Farmers of America will distribute thousands of pounds of cheese to food insecure Mainers through Maine’s emergency food distribution network.

Starting immediately with a commitment of more than 26,000 pounds of cheese donated by Pineland Farms Dairy Co., made from local DFA members’ milk, Good Shepherd Food Bank, Maine’s largest hunger-relief organization, will begin distributing cheese weekly to its network of over 500 partner agencies, which include food pantries, meal sites, shelters, and schools. Contributions could total 200,000 pounds of Maine cheddar and Jack cheeses over the course of several months.

To donate its cheese inventory immediately, Pineland Farms Dairy secured an arrangement to receive milk donated by DFA, a national dairy farmer cooperative made up of family farms. Even during the pandemic, Dairy Farmers of America is committed to ensuring milk continues to be picked up, its plants continue to operate, and the cooperative continues to provide consumers and communities with wholesome dairy products during this difficult time. By continuing to have a market for their milk, farmers will receive needed milk checks, and Pineland Dairy will receive a supply of local milk to begin replenishing its inventories.

“At an unprecedented time in our history, we are proud to work collaboratively to put local and highly nutritious cheese products into the hands of our neighbors in need,” said Mark Whitney, president and an owner of Pineland Farms Dairy, in a press release May 13.

Travis Fogler, an owner at Stonyvale Farm in Exeter and a member of DFA’s Northeast Area Council, agreed. “Dairy Farmers of America is critical to the ongoing viability of many Maine farms, and therefore creating these markets for our milk in extreme circumstances is vitally important and we are proud to be able to put the milk to good use and support our communities in need,” he said.

President of Good Shepherd Food Bank Kristen Miale welcomes the program in light of ongoing food insecurity in Maine and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Need is increasing across Maine as more community members face financial uncertainty due to job loss or the inability to work due to school closures,” Miale said. “While it will take time to see new patterns of food insecurity emerge, we know the need is rising and the Food Bank is grateful that this partnership will reduce food waste and provide our neighbors with access to Maine-produced products.”

As a result, Whitney is now busy restoring full operations at the renovated 75,000-square-foot Pineland Farms Dairy Bangor facility. “This program allows us to immediately begin reengaging our entire plant workforce to make cheese with Maine milk for many Maine people, which is a welcome step forward,” he said.

Pineland Farms’ donation program was encouraged by one of its investors, the Libra Foundation of Portland. The foundation indicated its willingness to underwrite the company’s loss of up to $2 million incurred by donating inventory.

“This is a win for everyone,” Whitney said.

For more information on the program, visit feedingmaine.org or pinelandfarmsdairy.com.

About Good Shepherd Food Bank

As the largest hunger-relief organization in Maine, Good Shepherd Food Bank provides for Mainers facing hunger by distributing nutritious food to more than 500 partner agencies across the state, including food pantries, meal sites, schools, and senior programs. Together with its network, the Food Bank leads a statewide effort to combat the root causes of hunger by engaging in advocacy, nutrition education, and strategic partnerships. In 2019, the Food Bank distributed more than 25 million meals to families, children, and seniors in need throughout Maine.

About Pineland Farms Dairy Co.

Pineland Farms Dairy Co. began its operation in 2005 and further expanded in 2019 to a state-of-the-art facility, located in Bangor. The company produces specialty cheese products for the retail and foodservice industry, as well as fluid milk for foodservice and industrial use. The company supports local dairy farmers to craft quality cheese products and process milk.

About the Libra Foundation

The Libra Foundation, based in Portland, was created in 1989 and has made significant contributions to worthy causes throughout the state of Maine. It strives for innovative ways to enrich Maine, empower communities, and enhance the quality of life of all Maine citizens.

About Dairy Farmers of America

Dairy Farmers of America is a national, farmer-owned dairy cooperative focusing on quality, innovation and the future of family dairies. While supporting and serving more than 13,000 family farmers, DFA works with some of the world’s largest food companies to develop ingredients that satisfy their customers’ cravings while staying committed to social responsibility and ethical farming. For more information, visit dfamilk.com.

 

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