CHICAGO (WLS) -- A unique partnership is bringing milk to families in need in the Chicago area this holiday season.
At the St. John Lutheran Church Food Pantry in Joliet, people file in three times a week to get essentials to feed their families.
"Over the last couple of years, we've grown from a pantry that served 4,000 people a year to this year we're going to serve over 32,000 people a year. There's a great need in this community," said Dawn McGregor, St. John Lutheran Food Pantry.
Since the Milk 2 My Plate program three years ago, families can also receive milk. Milk is one of the most requested items from families in need, yet because of its short shelf-life, it is rarely donated to food banks.
"We know milk provides vitamin D, calcium, potassium and six other nutrients that our bodies need and particularly our kids need so they can learn, grow and thrive," said Julie Yurko, Northern Illinois Food Bank president. "This distribution represent our 5-millionth serving of milk given out to our neighbors in need."
Milk 2 My Plate is a partnership with Prairie Farms. The food bank and the food pantries buy the milk at a discounted price. Then, the dairy delivers it to local food pantries for immediate distribution.
"We are locally-owned, locally-produced, so the milk that is delivered to this food pantry, for example, has come from farms in the area," said Emily Hereford, Prairie Farms.
People who get to take a gallon home say it is a considerable help.
"My sister moved in with me and it's six of us altogether and four younger children. Three boys, they all go through the milk like crazy," said Brittne McDonald.
"The kids, they gotta have the milk and it's not just this time of year, it's all year. So it's truly a blessing," Leslie Falasca said.
The Milk 2 My Plate program has been nationally recognized and is now a model for other food banks across the nation.
To make a donation to help the Northern Illinois Food Bank or the Greater Chicago Food Depository buy more milk, or to learn how to help out in a different way, go to abc7chicago.com.
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