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Thursday is Free Milk Day at Bloom Township headquarters

Unique partnership with Kilgus Farmstead redirects milk that would have been dumped

by Melanie Jongsma

CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (April 24, 2020) – It was last week when Supervisor TJ Somer and his wife saw an ABC7 report about Illinois farmers being forced to dump large quantities of milk because of the drastic drop in purchasing from restaurants, schools, and other large institutions who are closed due to the COVID-19 quarantine. One of the farmers mentioned in the report was Matt Kilgus of Kilgus Farmstead, a family-run dairy farm. Somer called Kilgus that same night, and he got a call back the next morning.

“They were just wonderfully cooperative people,” said Somer. Kilgus Farmstead agreed to provide Bloom Township with a minimum of 500 gallons of milk each week at cost.

The Township already has systems in place for providing food to lower income families, and they used those systems to advertise the new Free Milk program. They also used social media, yard signs, and their network of municipalities to spread the word.

By noon on Thursday, April 23, a line of nearly 200 cars snaked from the Bloom Township north parking lot all the way to Vollmer Road. Even so, once opened the distribution system—fashioned after a Portillo’s drive-through—kept things moving. Within 45 minutes over 200 gallons of milk had been given away and the long line was dispersed.

Around 11:45am on Thursday, April 23, Bloom Township workers begin unloading Kilgus Farmstead milk from a CloverLeaf Farms refrigerated truck. CloverLeaf heard about the project and donated the use of the truck. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Bloom Township purchased the milk at cost and will give away a gallon per family every Thursday. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
With each Kilgus Farmstead gallon, Bloom Township staff included information about the other programs and resources available through the Township. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Bloom Township Supervisor TJ Somer invited representatives from his various municipalities to be part of the first Free Milk day. Before opening the program he gathered the officials for a photo and explained the news story that led to the new program. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
“We’re obviously meeting a need,” said Trustee Mike Noonan, noticing the long line of cars waiting to receive a free gallon of milk. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
With the efficiency of a Portillo’s drive-thru, Bloom Township workers approached drivers throughout the line to ask their name and address and to find out how many households were represented in the car. That number was then written on a sticky note and posted on the windshield. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
As drivers approached the milk table, their sticky note was removed, and the correct number of gallons was placed into the passenger side window. Volunteer George Bennett works for School District 168 but came by to help out. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Lansing Mayor Patty Eidam was among the officials who participated in the giveaway. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
It was John Garcia’s story on ABC7 that prompted Supervisor Somer to launch a Free Milk program, so Garcia attended Opening Day of the program and interviewed Somer. the story appeared on ABC7’s 6:00pm newscast that night. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Bloom Township is located at 425 S Halsted Street in Chicago Heights, Illinois. The Free Milk program will run every Thursday from 12:00 noon until 3:00pm.

Call 708-754-9400 for more information.

Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.