MILK RUN – Pioneer Market store manager Barry Whipple wheels out milk donated to La Conner Sunrise Food Bank through the Give A Gallon program. Food bank volunteer Stu Hutt arrived Monday morning to pick up this past week’s donations. Since last May, Pioneer Market customers have donated nearly 600 gallons of milk to the local food bank. – Photo courtesy of Bill Reynolds
Everyone knows there’s no sense crying over spilled milk. Truer still, donated milk is cause for celebration. That thanks to a partnership forged between the Washington State Dairy Commission, Pioneer Market and the La Conner Sunrise Food Bank. The trio has teamed up over the past 10 months to provide nearly 600 gallons of milk to local families in need through the “Give A Gallon” program. Aware that it can be difficult to regularly stock food banks and pantries with milk – which provides protein, calcium, Vitamin D and other essential nutrients – the Dairy Commission initiated “Give A Gallon” on a statewide basis, encouraging food banks and grocery stores throughout Washington to join forces. That formula has worked especially well in La Conner. “We’re very proud to be part of this,” says Pioneer Market store manager Barry Whipple. “The food bank sparked it and support from the community has made it happen.” “It’s definitely a win-win situation,” adds La Conner Sunrise Food Bank assistant director Cynthia Adams. It goes like this. Pioneer Market has coupons that customers hand to cashiers when they wish to donate purchased gallons of milk to the food bank. Those milk sales are coded and tallied for “Give A Gallon.” La Conner Sunrise volunteers come to the store on Monday mornings to pick up the donated milk, which is then kept in commercial refrigerators at the food bank until deliveries are made later in the day. The program began last spring on a 30-day trial basis. It proved so popular it has remained. “We were only going to do it for a month,” Whipple recalls, “but then we said, ‘let’s keep it going.’” About a dozen gallons are donated most weeks, swelling to as many as 40 during the holidays. La Conner Sunrise Food Bank collected 21 gallons last week. “It varies from week to week,” says the energetic Adams, a virtual whirlwind of activity on delivery days, when La Conner Sunrise Food Bank distributes a ton-and-a-half of food to local residents. Milk is an important part of those deliveries, especially for households with children. Adams learned about “Give A Gallon” while visiting another food bank. “That’s when I first became aware of it,” she says. “They said you can be part of ‘Give A Gallon’ if you can find a grocery store to partner with.” Pioneer Market didn’t hesitate when asked. In fact, it is using the local “Give A Gallon” campaign as a model for a sister store in Carnation. Nor is the partnership between Pioneer Market and La Conner Sunrise Food Bank limited to “Give A Gallon.” The store has launched a “Round Up” drive in April – coinciding with Volunteer Appreciation Month – which gives Pioneer Market customers the option of rounding up their sales totals to the nearest dollar, the balance going to La Conner Sunrise Food Bank. It’s hoped the “Round Up” will benefit from momentum generated by “Give A Gallon,” the charitable Milky Way that has been such a shining example here.