The summer can be very challenging for families in need who rely on food banks in their area. Food banks are typically given canned food, dry goods and processed foods by generous members of the community, but according to renowned registered dietitian and author, Michelle Dudash what food banks really need is fresh foods like milk.
Michelle Dudash was kind enough to join me for an interview recently to discuss the challenges families face during the warm summer months when their children aren’t in school, what foods we should be donating to our local food banks, the Great American Milk Drive, how we can help families in need with a simple $5 donation, and much more.
Candace Rose: What are some of the challenges families can face when feeding their children and themselves during the summer months?
Michelle Dudash: “This time of the year is known as the summer slide. Parents and teachers know this time of the year all too well when it refers to idle minds, young minds for these three months. But it also reflects on the nutrition of these kids, so this time of year millions of kids aren’t getting the same nutrition because they’re not able to take advantage of the free and reduced price meals that they get during the school year. More than 22 million children aren’t getting the nutritious milk, so they are missing out on milks great nutrition, but there is a way we can fix that with food banks. Food banks actually help fill in the gaps in getting more nutritious foods during this time of year.”
Candace Rose: What types of foods should we be donating to our local food banks?
Michelle Dudash: “Well, of course non-perishable foods are great like canned vegetables. Things like peanut butter – you’re getting your protein there. I could tell you food bank clients really look forward to those fresh food donations as well – for example, milk. You can donate to MilkLife.com/Give, it’s the Great American Milk Drive. Even a donation as little as five dollars will get a gallon of fresh milk to a family in need, to a child in need in your community.”
Candace Rose: Can you tell us more about the Great American Milk Drive?
Michelle Dudash: “The Great American Milk Drive has been in existence for a couple of years. I’m really excited to partner with them because I know how important milk plays a role in my family, so I can’t imagine going without fresh milk. Basically with this program you go to the website, donate five dollars or more, and that will get food vouchers. These are distributed through the Feeding America Network of Food Banks, so if you donate online, whatever zip code you enter, that milk voucher will get sent to a local food bank in your area. That voucher will be given to a family in that community, they can go to the store when they need their milk, again, especially this time of year when they need it and get their family fresh milk.
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Michelle Dudash: Overall, you want to think about a balanced diet. Things like fruits and vegetables, things like whole grains, things like protein, things like dairy. First with fruits and vegetables, we know we’re getting essential vitamins and minerals, we’re getting fiber. The more color you get in your produce, the better. That means you’re getting a wider range of nutrients, whole grains – oats are really great (those are really economical too). A big canister of oats is really economical per serving and that can go a long way when feeding a family. When it comes to proteins, proteins can be a more expensive food item, but depending on what you choose. Legumes are a really economical choice, peanut butter – great protein source (also good fats there). Another thing we don’t always think about, milk actually provides high quality protein. You’re getting eight grams of protein in each eight ounce glass plus you’re getting nine essential nutrients. Three of those nutrients are nutrients of concern for children, and that’s calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Whenever you can – the goal for the dietary guidelines is three glasses of milk or milk products per day, whether it’s low fat or fat free, you know you’re getting those nine essential nutrients. Cheese – one an a half ounce is typically a serving; when it comes to yogurt, one cup is a serving of dairy as well.”
Candace Rose: Well, thank you Michelle! Where can we go for more information?
Michelle Dudash: “Go to MilkLife.com/Give. That’s where you can donate as little as $5 to get a fresh gallon of milk to a family in need.”