Free milk: Illinois dairy farmer's unsold product helping feed hungry in south suburbs

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Friday, April 24, 2020

BLOOM TOWNSHIP, Ill. (WLS) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has hit food production industries unexpectedly hard.

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Dairy farmers in particular have had to dump milk because the businesses that buy many of their products just aren't open. But a local dairy farmer found a way to get that extra product to people who need it most.

Free milk. They put the word out just a couple days ago, and residents lined up to get it.

"Times are tight and this helps your food dollar stretch farther," said Laura Pahr, of Steger.

"I hope this is over soon. I pray every day it will be over soon," said Uber driver Alfredo Torrez. He said he has seen his income almost disappear.

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Bloom Township supervisor TJ Somer got the idea after seeing an ABC7 report last week about how dairy farmers are being forced to dump milk because schools and many businesses are no longer ordering.

So he called Kilgus Farms near Fairbury, Ill., which is now selling about 700 gallons a week to the township at their cost.

"The South Side has been hit hard by the pandemic. We're thrilled to be a part of the solution," Somer said.

"You can tell by the lines coming through, it's needed in the south suburbs," Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez added.

The township's food pantry has also been hit hard. Demand is up 300% since the pandemic hit.

"As we're putting food in cars they are telling us they never expected to be here. They never thought they'd need this," said Mike Noonan, who runs the township food pantry.

They plan to continue this milk giveaway as long as there is need. And with the governor's stay-at-home order extended another 30 days, that need may increase.