Donation of pork feeds Missouri’s food-insecure
More than a hundred donated hogs are helping to feed food-insecure people in Missouri. The Missouri Farmers Care Drive to Feed Kids partnered with the Missouri Pork Association to give more than 10,500 pounds of ground pork to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, which by Food Bank calculations comes out to about 48,000 servings.
The fact that packers are operating at about 80 percent capacity because of the COVID outbreak means there are more hogs available, according to Don Nikodim, executive director of the Missouri Pork Association.
“When we’re below 95 percent [of processing capacity] that means there are a lot of pigs that aren’t getting to go to market like they should,” Nikodim told Brownfield Ag News.
Packing plant closures and slowdowns resulted in weekly pig processing numbers falling to about 1.5 million nationally, meaning pigs put on more weight and some had to be euthanized. Nikodim said, however, that processing is recovering.
“If we can get that number back up into the 2.3 million or 2.4 million pigs per week, then we’ll start to see this thing moderate a little bit,” said Nikodim. “But it’s going to take a while.”
Pigs in the first round of donations were given by JBS packing company as well as by individual Missouri producers, said Nikodim. This includes Bill Kessler, a pig farmer from Mexico, Missouri, one of the first to donate to the program.
“It’s great to see everyone come together right now – our farmers, our local processors, and our communities,” Kessler said. “It’s so important that we all give where we can, and I was proud to be a part of this effort. We’re really fortunate to not be in such a tight spot as some of our fellow pork producers, and appreciate the work everyone’s doing to help it stay that way.”
Since it launched in 2017, the Drive to Feed Kids has focused on food insecure children across Missouri, said Missouri Pork’s Nikodim. “We’re proud to have been part of the effort each year, and especially now to see how our partners across agriculture have stepped up to address the needs during these challenging times. Missouri agriculture has a track record of coming together to solve problems, and this is one way to help in today’s tough situation. While the backlogged pork processing plants continue their work, this partnership provides for hog producers without markets and helps meet increased demands on our food banks.”
More donations will be made when processing can be scheduled. Pig farmers and meat processors can take part by contacting the Missouri Pork Association. Individuals and companies can donate funds to support the effort at MOFarmersCare.com/drive.
More than $100,000 has already been raised for the effort. Missouri’s agricultural organizations and businesses, including Missouri Farm Bureau Federation, Missouri Farm Bureau Insurance, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, Missouri Soybean Association, FCS Financial, MFA Incorporated, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Forrest and Charlotte Lucas, founders of Protect the Harvest, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, Paseo Biofuels, LLC, and Biofuels, LLC have donated to cover processing and transportation costs in this partnership.
In 2019, the Drive to Feed Kids donated 4.3 million meals. Feeding Missouri’s six regional partner food banks distributed the food statewide.
AUDIO: Don Nikodim