Mid-Columbia Basin dairy farmers launch ‘Dairy for Life’


Mid-Columbia Basin dairy farmers have launched Dairy for Life, a program that has committed $60,000 to put 25,000 gallons of milk into food banks from Washington’s Yakima to the Tri-Cities over the next 12 months. Second Harvest will be the distributor of this milk into the food bank system.

“The Dairy for Life program will provide milk for folks that we think need and will appreciate it,” said Bill Wavrin, the Mabton, Wash. dairy farmer who is one of the participants in the donation effort. Wavrin is also on the board of directors for the Northwest Dairy Association (NDA), who own and operate Darigold.

Darigold 2% milk in gallon jugs will be distributed by Second Harvest’s branch distribution center in Pasco, Wash., which provides close to 500,000 pounds of free food each month to more than 50 partner programs in south central and southeastern Washington. These programs are feeding thousands of people each month.

“We’re so honored by the generous donation on behalf of local dairy producers to provide a regular supply of fluid milk for our network of food banks and meal programs in the mid-Columbia,” said Jason Clark, president and CEO of Second Harvest.  “This partnership means so much to Second Harvest and the hungry people who need our help.”

“As dairy farmers, we have a sense of pride that we feed people,” stated Wavrin.  “Our businesses depend upon paying customers, but at the same time, we in dairy recognize the importance of providing nutritious foods to those in need.” 

One obstacle regarding milk donations to food banks has been shipping and storage since milk requires refrigeration.

“Second Harvest is great at logistics,” said Wavrin.  “They have cold warehouses in Pasco and Spokane and are able to distribute the fresh milk to the food banks.”

 Second Harvest food lines have grown by upwards of 25 percent with one out of seven people in the Columbia Basin – including one out of four children – hungry or at-risk of hunger, according to a recent report by Feeding America. These people are not getting the food they need – including nutrient-rich milk – to lead healthy, productive lives.

“Partnerships like Dairy for Life will play a key role in helping Second Harvest respond to this unprecedented need,” added Clark.

“There was a pent up desire among dairy farm families to build on existing community service activities but until now there really wasn’t a mechanism in place,” explained Wavrin.  “Dairy farmers are always thinking of ways to give back to the communities that have supported us. Often when I spoke with neighboring dairy farmers I found we were all looking for a concerted and ongoing effort in this regard."

In 2011 and 2012, local dairy farmers conducted a handful of food drives in Yakima and the Tri-Cities to benefit Second Harvest and other area food banks.

• Dairy Farm Families participating in Dairy for Life include:

• Sunny Dene Ranch LLC  – The Wavrin Families

• DeRuyter Brothers Dairy – Jake and Genny DeRuyter

• Skyridge Farms – Dan and Carolyn DeGroot                 

• deVries Family Dairy – Tom and Heather deVries

• Cow Palace – The Dolsen Families

• Sunnyside Dairy LLC – Aquilini Family, Henry and Lori Oord, and Jon and Lori Wheeler