Watch above: Would a human milk bank help alleviate food bank demand?
SASKATOON – The next time you pour yourself a glass of milk, be grateful that you can.
Every month, thousands in Saskatoon, many of whom are children, have to visit the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre for milk.
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“Every week at the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre, we order approximately 1,440 litres of milk and our milk for children program ensures that children 17 and under and pregnant and breastfeeding women receive a litre of milk at each visit,” said Deborah Hamp, director of operations for the Saskatoon Food Bank.
More than 6,500 requests are made for milk each month. Numbers that went up over the summer with children having no access to school lunch programs.
“We have greater purchasing power as we’re purchasing in bulk so the financial donations go a long way toward ensuring that we can keep milk in the building,” added Hamp.
Launching its second annual ‘milk month’, officials say any financial contributions during the month of September will help offset the program costs.
“The entire cost is sitting at about $120,000 a year. During the month of September we’re hoping to raise about $35,000 to 40,000 to help us achieve that goal,” explained Hamp.
Meanwhile, another group says the need for milk can start from day one and are pushing for an entirely different kind of milk to be widely accessible in the province.
“There are women who do have difficulties, whether it’s for physical reasons, whether it’s just circumstances around birth or that kind of thing and absolutely we would love to see human milk used to help those women as they transition to breast feeding,” said Martha Neovard, committee member for the Breastmilk Bank of Saskatchewan.
A human milk bank in the province would benefit both babies and mothers in need. According to Neovard, the milk would be intended for sick babies, then the community at large.
“Human milk banking actually was really popular up until the 1980’s. There were milk banks in every single province in Canada. In the 1980’s the HIV scare shut down all the milk banks of course now we know a lot more about human milk, breast milk and the transfer of HIV through breast milk,” added Neovard.
The return of human milk banks is now gaining momentum across the country, with three locations at present.
“If we had support from the community and we had a facility and the funds to start it we could have it going easily within a year to two years,” said Neovard.
The plan for now is to set up depots in the province and have the milk sent to the Calgary Mothers’ Milk Bank.
“Where it could be pasteurized, tested, processed and then hopefully come back to the community,” explained Neovard.