Note: This is one in a series of entries USDA is posting to our blog in observance of National Cooperative Month in October.
Mothers Milk Cooperative (MMC) is believed to be the first cooperative in the country that aggregates and markets human milk. The cooperative was incorporated in 2012 to achieve two major objectives:
- Provide a safe, shelf-stable human milk product to Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) in hospitals, aiding in the survival of the 300,000 premature babies born each year, and
- Provide income to women with babies, allowing them to remain at home with their babies for a longer period.
Elena Medo, an expert in the field of human milk and its use in NICUs, and her daughter, Adrianne Weir, approached the Michigan State University Product Center and its Michigan Cooperative Development Program (which is partially funded by a USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant). After investigating different options, a cooperative was developed.
Applicants are screened based on a complete medical history. If approved, they must complete a blood test to ensure that there are no diseases, drugs or other medical issues that might affect the safety of the milk they will deliver.
While the safety of the milk delivered by the members is important, so is the health of the members and their babies. Educational training of the members is therefore provided to ensure that the mothers do not sell their milk through the cooperative in preference to feeding their own babies.
The cooperative currently has 1,000 members in 45 states. The average value of a woman’s milk deliveries is $800 per month, although some women are earning as much as $4,000 each month. The milk is delivered to the Mothers Milk Co-op and Medolac Laboratories offices in Lake Oswego, Ore., where it is tested and processed into Co-op Donor Milk.