The history of the Consumer-Farmer Milk Cooperative officially started on a damp November Sunday in Foley Square, Manhattan with a Holstein cow, a farmer, and 150 resolute women 1. It was chilly that day in 1937 – 35 degrees to be exact – and the forecast for freezing rain threatened plans to protest recent milk price increases. The group stood in eyeshot of City Hall, where, had the sun been shining, 4,000 strong would have continued onward to present the petition of the League of Mothers Clubs of the United Neighborhood Houses to New York City's Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Mr. E. Claude Jones officiated the gathering of shivering, diminished numbers from the back of his truck under a sign that read: "I have signed up with the Dairy Farmer's Union – "Bossy". I am a union cow, my milk is for babies, not for the milk trust." The sound of milk against metal as he tugged at Bossy's udder must have been lost in the shadows of the monolithic municipal buildings, but elsewhere, the message came across loud and clear. In Albany, a group including Consumer-Farmer Milk Cooperative (CFMC) founders Meyer Parodneck and Dr. Caroline Whitney supported a reading of the same document to Governor Herbert Lehman, asking him to do something about the price of milk: "We hope that the present action of the League of Mothers Clubs will result in the Attorney General taking immediate steps against the milk trust." This moment marks the beginning of a project that determined the next 53 years of Parodneck's life.
Meyer Parodneck, the driving force behind the fight for affordable milk, had sympathies for New York City's poor that were rooted in his own past. Born a Polish Jew in 1904, his family escaped political and racial tensions by first moving to London and then New York City. After the untimely death of his father, he and his mother moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, struggling to make ends meet. Parodneck focused on upward mobility: he earned a law degree from New York Law School at the age of twenty, made a decent living as the owner of a taxi company, and purchased one of the first homes in Sunnyside Gardens, an early planned community in Queens. He lived there comfortably until the stock market crashed in 1929 with devastating effects. Although Parodneck managed to keep his home during the Great Depression that followed, he watched the homes of friends and neighbors foreclose one-by-one. Parodneck felt the pull of public service. He helped organize a group that hired then-lobbyist (and future New York City Mayor) Fiorello LaGuardia to go to Washington and fight for a federal foreclosure moratorium. The successful effort inspired Parodneck to join the Consumer Federation of America and travel to Europe to learn more about the cooperative movement – a movement he believed would return power to the consumer 2.
Upon return from a European cooperative tour, Parodneck met Caroline Whitney, his future friend and business partner. Whitney, an economist from Columbia University, had been employed by the United Neighborhood Houses to conduct a study New York City's milk market. The results of her study were alarming: rising costs for consumers placed the essential food out of economic reach for the City's poor and as a result, many were starving. Hearing of Parodneck's success as a consumer advocate, Whitney approached him for help. They agreed at their first meeting: Parodneck and Whitney needed a cooperative.