Thousands of pounds of cheese donated to feed Maine's hungry

Published: May. 13, 2020 at 5:14 PM EDT
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“When the pandemic hit, it closed down the restaurants. Approximately 50% of our business was food service, and that dried up overnight.”

That's what Mark Whitney, President and COO of Pineland Farms Dairy Company, says. Despite this, Pineland has continued to produce cheese at the same rate as before.

“That product would have no home if we didn’t come up with this partnership.”

Pineland Farms has pledged to donate 25,000 pounds of cheese over the next five weeks to Good Shepherd Food Bank.

Kristen Miale, President at Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine, says the donation couldn't come at a better time. “We’re seeing a significant increase in what was already a very high number of people living with food insecurity in Maine.”

The donation is made possible by The Libra Foundation underwriting the estimated two million dollar loss to Pineland Farms.

“Dairy Farmers of America are donating the milk. About 260,000 pounds of milk in the month of May." says Whitney. "We will turn that into cheese.”

Each week, 5000 pounds of cheese will leave Pineland for Good Shepherd Food Bank distribution centers.

“This really supports everybody." says Miale. "The Dairy Farmers of America, they’re making sure that farmers get paid for their milk. Then, with support with Libra, Pineland is able to process it and make it available to us without impacting their business.”

Good Shepherd will then send out the cheese to its network of 500 local food pantries, schools, homeless shelters, and more.

“It’s getting food for people in need while also providing jobs so that we have fewer people who need our services. The last thing we want certainly is dairy farmers in our food pantry lines because they weren’t able to keep their business running.”

Whitney says he's able to keep all 38 of his employees working. “It’s a win win for our company, for Good Shepherd, and it puts the surplus milk to use.”

Pineland is talking with more potential partners for the program and say they could end up donating 200,000 pounds of cheese over the next several months.

“This is a welcome solution." says Miale. "A really good quality product that supports Maine dairy farmers, and it’s just going to be a welcome addition to our food offerings for our partners.”