Whether you’re 7 or 77, drinking milk is an important part of a healthy diet and routine. Milk provides a good source of vitamin D and calcium, which older adults tend to need more of. These two nutrients help to maintain bone strength, preserve muscle strength, and prevent osteoporosis, all of which are common problems that can arise as we age. For some seniors, milk means more than nutrition. It provides comfort in their golden years.

Milk Driven Memories

“My grandfather had some cows and he used to bring us milk,” recalls 77-year-old Doris Perschka. Growing up, Perschka lived near her grandfather’s farm in Atlanta, Pennsylvania. Ever since she was a young girl, milk played an important role in her diet. “I was taught that it’s best for me to drink milk because it has all these nutrients, including vitamin D and calcium, and protein.” To this day, Doris follows the family mantra and drinks three to four glasses of milk a day.

Must be the Milk

Even as Doris is getting older, she is a fiercely independent senior citizen. She does her own housekeeping and yard work, and to stay strong, along with drinking milk, she likes to go for walks and stay active. She’s also a caregiver for a nearby family. “I told my brother-in-law and my sister that they have to have milk. They’re in their 80’s, and have health issues. Due to some health problems, it’s hard for my sister to eat. Milk is easy for her to manage and gives her high protein for strength.” Doris also stresses that ‘milk is a better drink choice’ to her daughter and granddaughter, so that they can reduce their risk of diseases that are common as we age, like osteoporosis.

Milk Nutrition Fights Osteoporosis

Fifty percent women and up to 25 percent men, age 50 and older, will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Doris doesn’t want to be among those statistics. She considers herself in good health, but isn’t leaving anything to chance — she’s eating additional dairy foods, like cottage cheese and yogurt to maintain her strong bones and reduce her risk of fractures.

Filling the Food Gap

Drinking at least three servings of milk or eating dairy foods each day is a good way for seniors, like Doris, to get vitamin D and calcium, and protein. Doris uses milk in her cereal and cooks with it, too. She loves to make macaroni and cheese, scalloped potatoes, and soups to get in her daily servings of dairy. “I eat a lot of cream-based soups. It helps stretch my food for the month.”

Volunteers receive milk and fresh food from The Salvation Army

Milk is among the fresh foods Doris Perschka (center) receives at The Salvation Army food pantry from volunteers like Jason Johnson (left) and Gary Lisac.

Pantry-Fresh Milk

The last Thursday of the month, Doris visits The Salvation Army food pantry in Sharon, Pennsylvania. At the food pantry, Doris gets a half gallon of fresh milk and other foods to help her stretch her food dollars.

Major Michael Jung, M.B.A, Commanding Officer/Pastor of The Salvation Army in Sharon Pennsylvania knows that by providing milk and other nutritious foods, the pantry is making a difference in people’s lives. “We know that the challenges are out there but we know that because we give that milk, they can smile a little bit that day.”

Like most seniors, Doris struggles on a fixed income. “The way things keep going up, like taxes and groceries, it’s just hard for me to make ends meet.” The Salvation Army and their food pantries help seniors not have to make the difficult choice between paying other bills or buying food.

Fill a Glass with Hope
Salvation Army brown grocery bag

via The Salvation Army of Arkansas & Oklahoma

More than Filling a Glass with Hope

It’s through milk donations to programs like Fill a Glass with Hope® that The Salvation Army in Sharon passes out nearly 450 half gallons of milk per month. Two hundred and fifty families, just like Doris Perschka, receive fresh milk each month — in addition to other fresh food options.

The Salvation Army says they see other benefits in handing out milk: it helps seniors emotionally, too. “Many seniors don’t get to see their grandchildren, and it mentally brings them a bit closer to home.”  That moment of drinking that cup of milk, says Major Michael Jung, also helps seniors in other ways. “It makes them feel good remembering their childhood, and maybe having a cup of milk with a cookie. It helps them emotionally, it helps them mentally by giving them that ‘feel good’ moment. It’s almost a source of comfort.”

With age comes wisdom. With milk comes nutrition that promotes healthier living at any age. Help Fill a Glass with Hope® today!

How You Can Help

To support milk in your local food pantries, visit Feeding Pennsylvania’s Fill a Glass with Hope®.