June is National Dairy Month, and Hy-Vee and Land O Lakes are joining the Northeast Iowa Food Bank to support The Great American Milk Drive to help feed a childhood in the Cedar Valley.

Summer is about fun and freedom – and to most kids, it means months filled with playing in the sun, swimming at the lake or playing baseball in the park. However, more than 22 million children – including kids in Cedar Falls, Waterloo and Waverly – may lose access to free or reduced-price meal programs when school lets out. For many children in need, even basic staples like milk – and the nutrients that help power the simple joys of summer – are missing.

16,000 kids in Northeast Iowa are at risk of hunger and receive support from Feeding America member food banks every year. From June 1 through June 30, 2016, shoppers at Hy-Vee stores in the Cedar Falls, Waterloo and Waverly areas can make a donation at checkout to help support children and their families in their own community this summer.

And, on Wednesday, June 1, the Cedar Falls Hy-Vee will be hosting an event to kick off The Great American Milk Drive program, with special appearances from our friends at UNI: Coach Ben Jacobsen, men’s basketball, Coach Tanya Warren, women’s basketball, Coach Bobbi Petersen, volleyball, TC and TK and UNI Cheerleaders.

“Hy-Vee is dedicated to fighting to end hunger in our communities,” said Niki Rinaldi, Cedar Valley Hy-Vee Marketing Coordinator. “It’s important for us to deliver milk during the summertime, when schools are out – because kids may be missing out on the essential nutrients that fuel playing, learning and growing. When you pick up a gallon of milk for your family, consider donating one to help feed local children and families right here in the Cedar Valley. We’re even going to make it easy for you to donate! We’ll give you a $0.10 Fuel Saver on your Hy-Vee Fuel Saver card for every gallon of Land O Lakes Dairy Pure milk that you donate in June!”

While Americans are generous with canned and dry goods, fresh milk is a lot harder to donate because it’s perishable. According to Feeding America, milk is one of the most requested, but least donated items at food banks. During the summer months, food banks are even busier and it’s increasingly important to fill this need so that food-insecure children across the country are not missing out on the essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, that milk supplies. On average, food banks are only able to provide the equivalent of less than one gallon of milk per person, per year.

Although some programs like the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) help to deliver meals when school is not in session, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP), do not reach children during the summer months.

Since 2014, Feeding America has partnered with The Great American Milk Drive to help supply its nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs with highly requested milk. Thanks to the generous contributions made by shoppers and donors across the country, The Great American Milk Drive has delivered more than 11 million servings of milk to families in need throughout the country..

“Milk is the top food source of three of the nutrients most likely to be missing in the American diet – calcium, vitamin D and potassium,” said Dean Schillinger, Registered Dietitian, Cedar Falls Hy-Vee. “That’s why we are focused on providing nutrient-rich milk to families facing hunger to help fuel the simple joys of summer for kids in our communities.”

Your small donation made in-store or online at milklife.com/give will deliver a gallon of milk to a family in need in your local community, helping to ensure that all children have nutrients they need. By entering your zip code, you can ensure that the milk is delivered to a local Feeding America food bank in your very own community.

The Great American Milk Drive is made possible by the nation’s dairy farmers and milk companies.