Pickaway County Farm Bureau and Pickaway County Community Foundation partnered to provide thousands of pounds of locally raised pork to area food banks. Partners sourced 12 hogs from a Pickaway County producer and worked with the Ohio State University Meat Science program to process the pork while educating students on the underlying principles of biology, physiology and nutrition that drive animal growth and the impact they have on meat quality.
Faculty from the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, Department of Meat Science instructed students to process and pack the pork at the university’s federally inspected facility. Students learned techniques involved in harvesting and fabricating retail cuts. They gained experience creating processed meat products.
“The goal of the Farms to Foodbanks 2.0 project is to encourage students to pursue critical careers in the meat industry and help feed hungry families in our community,” said Ivory Harlow, organization director, Pickaway County Farm Bureau.
Access to meat processing facilities
Local pork producers have found that they cannot have their livestock processed in a timely manner due to limitations of local meat processing capacity and capable workforce in Ohio. This lack of capacity issue also affects the consumer base, as they are unable to get their locally produced meat and poultry cuts and other products.
These issues for Ohio meat processing were exacerbated in 2020 by the effects of COVID-19. Nationally, meat processing facilities experienced closures due to outbreaks among workers, forced shutdowns and workforce losses. Economists have estimated at the height of the crisis pork processing capacity was reduced by as much as 800,000 hogs per week nationally and beef processing capacity was reduced by more than 200,000 cattle per week nationally. Many farmers had nowhere to send their animals to be processed and the lack of more regional slaughter capacity created major supply chain disruptions.
The challenges of 2020 put a strain on America’s food supply system, particularly meat processing facilities. The recent setbacks also made it more difficult for the next generation of meat processors, packers and retailers to get started and to maintain the health and growth of our communities.
“The Farms to Foodbanks 2.0 project addressed the problem in three ways. First, it provided hands-on education to the next generation of meat processors, packers and retailers at a fully equipped and inspected meat processing facility. Second, the project sourced hogs from a local producer-member. Third, it returned pork to feed the communities where the hogs were raised,” Harlow said.
Building community through food bank donations
The inaugural Farms to Foodbanks donation project provided over 10,500 pounds of healthy proteins to food banks in 2020. The county Farm Bureau and Pickaway County Community Foundation were excited to launch Farms to Foodbanks 2.0 in 2021. Pork will be distributed at various food bank sites through the Pickaway County Community Action organization (PICCA).
“The Pickaway County Community Foundation is proud to be a partner in this endeavor. The ability to work and partner with organizations to feed those in need in our county is a win-win. PCCF recognizes the important role that agriculture plays in this county. Being able to source locally raised animals while increasing the awareness of education about meat processing is ideal. However, the greatest win in this project are the community members who are in need of protein and will receive it through our food bank distributions,” said Jan Shannon, executive director of the Pickaway County Community Foundation. “It is still our hope to continue this Farms to Foodbanks 2.0 with the distribution of beef later this year.”
Farm Bureau also gives thanks to the Ohio Pork Council and Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation for their support of the project. Shannon added, in addition to the Farm Bureau and Ohio Pork Council, this project would not have been possible without the Well Being Fund of the Pickaway County Community Foundation or the donations from community members to the Food Insecurities Fund.