The State College Food Bank will hold a drive-through distribution of free milk on Tuesday outside of the Nittany Mall.
Starting at 1 p.m. and continuing until supplies are exhausted, volunteers will give out a total of 675 half-gallons of whole milk and chocolate milk. Each family will be able to receive one of each and the distribution is open to anyone.
Allayn Beck, executive director of the food bank, said the giveaway is a preliminary event to gauge need in Centre County and interest in supporting a larger distribution later this summer.
The idea was initiated by community member Lisa Holden, who connected the food bank with Vale Wood Farms.
A growing number of people face financial hardship because of job losses during the pandemic. At the same time the closure of schools and businesses has impacted dairy producers, who rely on bulk purchases for the largest part of their business and have, in some cases, had to dump milk.
State College Food Bank is paying the processing fee to Vale Wood Farms "so that milk doesn’t have to get dumped and then we’re giving it out to people in Centre County," Beck said. Vale Wood Farms also is donating its refrigerated truck to hold the milk during the event.
Because of the general need for food and the nutrients dairy can provide, Beck said a milk distribution provides a good option.
"I think there’s a wide need across Centre County just for food help in general," she said. "Milk is a great food to have. It’s got calcium and protein. In the scheme of food that people could be receiving, milk is a really good product, compared to something like Ramen noodles. It’s a good, healthy option."
The food bank also is working with the Centre County Farm Bureau.
"The hope was that if this is very successful — which I’m assuming it will be — we would be able to work with the Centre County farmers and do a bigger distribution later in the summer," Beck said.
She added that she believes the dairy industry is interested in participating in distributions of products to help those in need.
"I think the dairy industry is ready and willing to help," Beck said. "I don’t want to speak for them because I’m not a member of the dairy industry, but just from my observation I think lot of them are trying to figure out ways to help, and how they typically supply milk is changing now. They’re not sending milk to schools. Restaurants aren’t buying cheese. So what do you do with that milk and how do you get it back out in the community? This is a great way to do it."
For Tuesday's giveaway, the State College Downtown Rotary Club is providing signage to direct vehicles and volunteers to help with the no-contact distribution. Penn State Extension also is providing volunteers. Those who come to pick up milk are asked to follow the signs and remain in their vehicles.
Mason Asset Management and Namdar Realty Group, which own and operate the Nittany Mall, also offered the use of the mall parking lot. Shopping malls in Pennsylvania remain closed to the public because of pandemic-related restrictions.
“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had the opportunity to transform spaces within some of our properties to better accommodate the needs of the communities we serve,” Jelson Santos, director of operations at Namdar Realty Group, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to be offering State College Food Bank a space to give back to Centre County and are committed to finding more ways for us to give back during these challenging times."
Monetary donations to the food bank are always accepted at scfoodbank.org/donate, and those who would like to donate specifically to a future milk distribution should put "milk money" in the special notes section.
Beck said the food bank has seen a slow but steady increase in need among community members since the beginning of the pandemic, and she expects those numbers will continue to rise.
But, she added, the community has been generous in its support of the food bank from the start.
"I have been blown away, along with our whole staff and board here," she said. "I don’t know why I’m surprised. I know we live in an amazing community. They have been so giving on so many different levels — financially, they’ve been bringing in food. Everything on that side of our community support has been amazing and very humbling to see how many people want to help our community."