PHOENIX - The past several months have been a rollercoaster for dairy farms in Arizona as the demand for milk has slowed due to the coronavirus pandemic shutting down or slowing restaurant businesses.
Now, the demand for dairy products has shifted from restaurants to food banks.
Freezers in food banks and pantries across the state are filling up with dairy products such as milk and cheese to meet the demand.
Most dairies are family-owned, so they are in the community and they see the increasing need.
General manager of Arizona Milk Producers, Tammy Baker, says dairies provide around 80 to 85% of milk for the state. The focus for them is to make sure those in need are provided with the essentials, especially during this time.
“At food banks, we have a large effort to really help get more milk donated to the food banks and many of our dairy farms themselves have donated large amounts to the food banks and purchased it themselves to help those that are in need," Baker explained.
Jerry Brown with St. Mary’s Food Bank says when they typically receive milk, it’s from grocery stores.
"The milk is only good for a few days. But now it’s different," he said, adding, “We’re receiving this milk fresh right out of the dairies so we have two weeks from the time that we distribute that out to folks. They have two weeks to use it.”
Brown says that the food bank has been able to meet the demand so far.
"Those are things that every family who’s in a stressful situation and needs help, those are the staples that you have in every refrigerator and to be able to provide those on a consistent basis, and to know that every family that comes through is going to receive those, that's a huge plus for the food bank," Brown said.
Previously, some farmers were dumping over 100,00 gallons of milk a day due to a lack of need during the pandemic.