Philadelphia dairy farms have been shutting down operations in recent years due to the decrease of customers consuming milk, yogurt, and cheese. With an abundance of dairy products, a good portion of that ends up in the trash. A local non-profit is aiming to take those extra products and give them to those in need.
When looking at world totals, one-third of all food produced ends up being wasted, be it lost in transportation or becoming spoiled. At the same time, one out of every nine people are suffering from starvation. While there’s generally more cases in developing countries, there’s many places in the United States where the population doesn’t have enough to eat.
Specifically, one out of every five people, or more than 700,000 residents living in Philadelphia are suffering from malnourishment. To combat this, local food bank Philabundance has been rescuing milk that would have otherwise been allowed to spoil or thrown away. Instead, this is used to create cheese and yogurt that’s given to those in need.
The process began last year through donations from dairy farms and the Philadelphia Agricultural Surplus System. According to NPR, 12 milk transportation trucks that can hold up to 8,000 gallons of milk that were going to be dumped. Dairy farmers also made an income of $165,000 in this process.
With additional money, farmers that originally have been struggling to stay afloat are able to process cheese for free. Philabundance gives $1 back to farmers for every pound of cheese sold under the Abundantly Good brand. This is distributed by Di Bruno Bros., who put in the marketing efforts to showcase the difference between them and other cheese competitors.
“It was just getting everyone to understand the story — that this wasn’t just a new Pennsylvania cheesemaker, but an entire program,” Scott Case, Di Bruno’s procurement manager, told Billy Penn. “Our cheesemongers jumped on this idea and celebrated the upcycling and the social good aspects,” he continued. “Without them, the program would have not have succeeded.”
Since beginning the program last year, over $9,000 has been donated themselves to producing free cheese for food banks. Even better, it’s a high quality product that isn’t overly processed that’s given away. There’s also another variation of taking leftover skim milk and turning it into yogurt.
"We pump the skim milk in there [the pasteurizing tank], we heat it up, to about 108 degrees, and we add the culture,” farmer Abner Stolztfus told NPR. “We let it incubate for 12 hours, and we stir it back up, add the flavoring, sugars, and mix it up good, and that creates the yogurt," he explained while overseeing bottling of the product.”
Philabundance is attempting to save other foods outside of dairy. At the end of the month, a new product in the Abundantly Good brand will be Spiced Tomato Jam, which will be launched along with TBJ Gourmet. The company most famous for making bacon jam nationally will be flavoring the jam with allspice, cayenne, coriander, and cumin.
“They have the tomatoes,” Michael Oraschewsky, founder of TBJ, told Billy Penn. “We have the experience of putting stuff in jars and making it delicious.” He’ll be sending some of the marketing budget to Philabundance’s program, which will allow for tomato-based products to be donated to food banks in similar fashion to the dairy program.