DEWITT, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — A milk and food drive taking place at ShoppingTown Mall Tuesday carries a little more significance than the other milk and food drives. It marks one year since the American Dairy Association North East (ADANE) and Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) organized the first milk drive in Central New York to assist families during the pandemic.

The pandemic created a shift in supply and demand presenting significant challenges for the dairy industry.

“Milk and dairy foods are a staple in households, especially those with children,” says Michelle Barber, registered dietitian for American Dairy Association North East. “When schools closed, many kids lost access to school meals including milk, missing out on vital nutrients like calcium, Vitamin D, and protein.”

“Dairy farmers are in business to feed families,” says dairy farmer Joel Riehlman, of Venture Farms in Fabius. “It was frustrating to have a supply of nutritious milk available but not be able to get it to those in need.”

Since that time, ADANE and DFA have connected with other community organizations to expand the drives to distribute food to families too.

Over the last year, Central New York families have received more than 175,000 gallons of milk through distribution events like the one happening at ShoppingTown Tuesday.

More than 1,000 boxes of food and milk will be handed out. The event will begin at 1 p.m. Pre-registration is not required. Walk-ups are not allowed but drive-ups are. Participants are asked to enter ShoppingTown through Kinne Road.