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story.lead_photo.caption Joy Sweeney holds a milk case Tuesday while Paige Peters, 9, places it in someone's vehicle. Peters, who lives in New Bloomfield, came with her grandmother, Linda Strange, to help distribute milk in Holts Summit. Numerous volunteers gave away nearly 4,000 gallons of milk to individuals via drive-thru near the Holts Summit Civic Center parking lot. The United States Department of Agriculture's Farmers to Families Program provided 7,776 gallons of 2 percent and whole milk to be given out. It's being distributed through the partnership of Graves Foods and United Way of Central Missouri. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Two men braved the chill inside a refrigerated trailer Tuesday morning, dashing back and forth to carry plastic milk crates to its open doors, where other volunteers waited.

The United Way of Central Missouri volunteers briskly and efficiently distributed the four 1-gallon milk jugs each crate contained.

The effort — at Holts Summit's Civic Center in Greenway Park — was part of the second of three area U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers to Families Food Box milk giveaways to be done in the span of about a week.

Volunteers distributed 3,888 gallons of milk Tuesday, the same volume they distributed last week at Little Explorers Discovery Center and the same volume expected to be given away Thursday at Hamilton Tower, 12 Jackson St., in Jefferson City. That giveaway is 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., or as long as supplies last. Whole milk and 2 percent milk were available Tuesday.

Graves Foods Inc. is giving away the milk as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. Graves Menu Maker Foods is a Midwest wholesale food distributor that serves Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

The amount of milk anyone asked for during the giveaway was unlimited — from individuals picking up a single gallon for themselves or their families, to people requesting hundreds of gallons for their organizations.

Volunteers with the United Way of Central Missouri Unmet Needs Committee brought their own vehicles in to distribute milk to the people they knew were in need. They reached out to students and seniors, they said.

On Tuesday, several people representing day care facilities picked up milk for their charges.

Staff from Rhodes to Wiser Childcare Center LLC, 2002 E. McCarty St., said they have 74 children for whom they care. They received 40 gallons of milk.

Shelly Schwartz, with the United Way, volunteered to help with Tuesday's distributions. She said volunteers at the giveaway said there were large and small families, and even people who work at the soup kitchen picking up milk. They had given away about 1,000 gallons before mid-morning.

"We've seen 40 or 50 cars, but some are taking 40 gallons," Schwartz said. "There's no limit. We're just giving it away until it's gone."

The Farmers to Families program is part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Through the program, the USDA partners with national, regional and local suppliers, whose workforce has been significantly affected by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service businesses, to purchase up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products. (It expected to buy $317 million in dairy products alone.)

Suppliers were to package the products and distribute them to nonprofits serving Americans in need.

Ryan Cave, of Dixie, piled his three dogs in his SUV to drive down to Holts Summit and pick up some milk for the family. Cave, his girlfriend, and their families live relatively close to each other, he said. And, he intended to pick up milk for all of them.

"We go through milk like crazy," he said. "And, it's free milk."

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