Most people have, at some point in their lives, worked in the restaurant or hospitality field and had to grapple with the ludicrous notion of throwing away perfectly good food—either scraping off the plates of picky-eating guests, or throwing out all the products that have passed their “sell by” dates.

We come to realize that despite our parents and grandparents warning us about starving children in China or Africa, we tend to waste and throw out food before considering any other solution.

Enter Philabundance: a nonprofit that combats food waste in Pennsylvania by gathering excess milk from farms across the state and turning it into food for the hungry and homeless.

When dairy farms produce things like butter, a leftover layer of skim milk is cleared away and stored to make fat-free dairy products – but due to a significant drop in America’s interest in milk consumption; medical studies revealing unhealthy aspects of dairy; and concerns over the standards of animal care and exploitation in the industry, many people have begun turning to milk substitutes instead.

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Pennsylvania lost 120 local dairy farmers in 2016 alone, and many of those remaining didn’t have the financial wiggle-room to pay for processing the excess skim milk into cheese and yogurt, so simply started dumping it instead.

Last year, however, a statewide coalition of food banks came up with an idea. Using funding from the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System and donations from the dairy industry, they collected 12 tanker loads of surplus milk from a local co-op that was ready to discard it. They took the rescued milk to local cheesemakers and made thousands of pounds of cheese and yogurt to give away at food pantries and shelters for free.

For struggling farmers, it equated to about $165,000 in revenue.

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Last year, Philabundance purchased 27,680 pounds of that cheese for the purpose of donating it, before taking the idea one step further and buying more milk to make more of the same cheese – except this time, they started selling the cheese in fancy food stores throughout Philadelphia under the brand Abundantly Good. For every pound of cheese sold, $1 goes back to the farmer for processing excess milk into free cheese for hungry people.

Philabundance found such success with Abundantly Good cheese, it is now planning to add drinkable skim-milk yogurt to its product line. 4,500 pounds of milk makes 4,500 pounds of yogurt, and Philabundance will pay local farmers to process their milk by-product into yogurt before buying it from them and giving it away to people in need.

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“This new brand is Abundantly Good for our community on so many levels,” said Glenn Bergman, Executive Director of Philabundance. “It helps farmers by providing increased revenue, it helps cut down on harmful greenhouse gases created when food goes into landfills and the proceeds of sales help our clients access free, healthy, local food.”

Be Sure And Share This Cheesy Piece Of Good News With Your FriendsRepresentative Photo by SkanskaMatupplevelser, CC

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