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Amid excess dairy supply, free milk giveaways coming to Watertown, Syracuse

American Dairy Association North East Facebook

Free milk is being given away at dairy drive-thrus happening Tuesday in Watertown and in Syracuse on Wednesday. Drivers can pick up two gallons of free milk. This comes as dairy farmers are struggling through the coronavirus crisis with too much supply and a change in demand.

Jennifer Huson is with the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative, which has partnered with American Dairy Association North East and Dean Foods, to host the giveaway events. Over the past few weeks, they’ve donated more than 100,000 gallons of milk across the Northeast. Huson said consumer buying habits have changed in reaction to stay-at-home guidelines and the closure of in-person restaurants, schools and some meal delivery services.

“From a demand standpoint, there’s been changes as a result of those closures, and that’s resulted in additional milk and milk products that are available that need to find a home for consumers to purchase it,” Huson said. "What we’ve done as an organization is we’ve worked with our dairy farmers and other organizations to say, if there is a situation where there is excess product, how can we match up those communities and those people in need to make sure they are getting access to it?"

Dairy farmers across the country are dumping millions of gallons of milk a day. Huson said it’s a last resort as farmers try to work through the distribution challenges of an increase in demand on the retail, grocery store side, but a drop in demand from prepared, food service at restaurants.

The milk giveaway in Watertown will take place at the Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County at 10 a.m. The event in Syracuse will happen at the Destiny USA mall on Wednesday.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.