SURREY — A cool $100,000 in donated milk will stream into local food banks over the coming year, thanks to dairy farmers in the region.
At Surrey Food Bank on Monday afternoon (Sept. 2), officials with Mainland Milk Producers Association and Food Banks BC celebrated the announcement with some cookies and, of course, milk.
The donated milk will be delivered to food banks in Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, Mission and Chilliwack.
In Surrey each week, 190 one-litre cartons of milk will be given to clients of the food bank’s Tiny Bundles program, designed for pregnant moms and families with babies.
“The trucks will bring in the milk on Tuesdays, and it’ll be handed out on Wednesdays,” said Feezah Jaffer, the facility’s director of external relations.
“It’s amazing,” she added. “We (serve) more than 220 babies a week, so this milk is invaluable to us, it really is. We’ve never had milk donated in this quantity before.”
Mainland Milk Producers Association is an umbrella organization for 350 dairy farms between Delta and Chilliwack, including several in Surrey.
Among them is Nicomekl Farms Ltd., which has been operated by Cloverdale’s Janssens family since 1957.
“We produce raw milk and it’s then sent to a processor, so technically we, as an association, with this program, are buying it from the processor and then donating that milk to the food banks” said farm operator Nick Janssens.
Nicomekl Farms is considered Canada’s largest organic dairy farm, with around 450 cows – mostly holsteins – in its large fields and barns. The computerized milking parlour there is a busy place twice a day, Janssens said as he gave the Now a tour of the farm last week.
“The milk here, because this is an organic dairy farm, is picked up separately and is kept in a completely different system than other milk,” he explained. “There are a lot of regulations that we following, including the type of feed we use, very limited drug use by the cows, how much outdoor time they have, all kinds of things.”
Only conventional milk will be donated to the food banks during the coming year, said Holger Schwichtenberg, president of Mainland Milk Producers Association.
“There was talk at the board level about donating organic milk, too, but it got too complicated.
“Each of the five food banks will get a certain amount of milk that we purchase and then donate,” he added. “All the dairy farms will contribute that way.”
The association looked at several different charities before deciding to donate milk to the food banks, he said.
“We had the money and wanted to find an organization that was throughout the Fraser Valley, with representation in the entire region,” Schwichtenberg said Monday as food bank officials looked on.
“It was a unanimous decision by the 18 members of our board. It’s a very good fit for us and we hope it helps for the next year, and we think you deserve it.”
Marilyn Herrmann, executive director of Surrey Food Bank, said the donated milk will come in handy as the organization gears up for another busy fall-winter season.
“Protein and dairy is a hard item to get donated, so this is amazing,” she said. “In my time here, I don’t recall a commitment like this, for a full year like this.”