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story.lead_photo.caption Cole Coursen, left, of Salem, and Mostyn Phillips, of Rolla, set milk to the rear of the refrigerated trailer so the volunteers can easily reach it to give it away. The trailer was parked Thursday at 10 Jackson St. where anyone could drive up to get milk. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

By nearly any measure, a series of milk giveaways in Central Missouri has been an udder success.

And, it is to continue next week.

Because of the popularity of area U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers to Families Food Bank milk giveaways, the program is expanding. Volunteers on Thursday again distributed 3,888 gallons of milk within a community in Jefferson City. It was the same volume United Way volunteers distributed at two previous events (one in Holts Summit).

Another giveaway is scheduled to take place 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday at Moniteau Christian Ministries Center, 303 Latham Road, in California.

Another is scheduled for 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City, 1105 Lafayette St.

Lynne Bateman, United Way administrative coordinator, said Graves Foods Inc. is giving away the milk as part of a USDA grant. Graves Menu Maker foods is a Midwest wholesale food distributor that serves Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

The company is required to work with a nonprofit to distribute the milk, which is where the United Way comes in, Bateman said.

With help from the United Way, Graves is reaching numerous communities, she said.

"We're so happy about it," Bateman said. "It warms my heart."

The company is offering whole milk and 2 percent milk. Recipients were not limited to how many gallons of milk each could take, Bateman said. She added El Puente Hispanic Ministry picked up 300 gallons of milk to distribute in communities it serves.

Early Thursday morning, Jason Jaegers drove his pickup from the west end of Jefferson City to Hamilton Tower, where the distribution was occurring. He picked up 30 gallons of milk for extended family and members of his community.

"When I heard about it, I went to them and asked how many gallons they wanted," Jaegers said.

He said it just made sense for one person to pick it up and take it back to the neighbors.

Former political rivals Pat Rowe Kerr and Rep. David Griffith stood side-by-side pulling gallons of milk out of a refrigerated trailer early Thursday morning at the distribution site.

"This is a blessing to so many people in my neighborhood," Kerr said.

Kerr's husband loaded up their SUV and delivered milk to their home neighborhood, while she remained at the site, helping distribute the milk.

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.

Griffith said he recently traveled to Arizona and witnessed hundreds of thousands of gallons of milk being poured out because it couldn't be distributed.

Cows have to be milked every day, regardless of whether the milk is being sold, he said.

"This is one of the greatest things we're doing in Mid-Missouri," Griffith said. "We're doing whatever we can to help. I'm glad to be a part of it."

Martin Rothmund, who lives in the tower, walked up to the volunteers and asked for a single gallon of milk.

"Milk is expensive," he said. "A gallon will last a while."

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