Beefing up efforts to fight food insecurity

By Michelle Hiscocks

The Governor’s Feeding Iowans Task Force led by Lt. Governor Adam Gregg launched several initiatives to help direct locally grown products to food insecure Iowans following the outbreak of COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our entire food system and our economy. But when times get tough, the Iowa agriculture community rallies together to help those in need,” says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “The Beef Up Iowa and Pass the Pork food security initiatives are truly great examples of Iowans helping Iowans. These programs create a market for Iowa livestock farmers and deliver locally-grown protein to feeding sites that serve hungry people in our communities.”

The Iowa State University Meats Laboratory has served as the primary location for harvesting and processing. Animals are supplied by Iowa farmers and 4-H and FFA youth. Support from Iowa commodity groups helps coordinate these programs and connect beef and pork producers with the opportunity to participate.

Pass the Pork was launched in April 2020 in quick response to the lack of processing options for pig farmers. Local meat processors ground and distributed almost 50,000 pounds of pork before processing began at Iowa State University in August.

The initial steer for Beef Up Iowa was provided in July by Herry McClure, an Iowa 4-H member from Dallas County and son of Iowa State alumni Jon (’03 ag studies) and Kara McClure (’02 journalism and mass communication).

Undergraduate and graduate students get valuable hands-on experience working alongside faculty and staff while processing donations in the ISU Meats Laboratory. From proper protocol for processing, to packaging and storing, to loading the finished product on the delivery truck, students gain real-world experience. Faculty also record videos of the process to share in online learning and outreach.

“This is a fantastic program for our university. Our students are learning about meat processing, but they are learning so much more about serving humanity,” says Dr. Dan Thomson (’90 animal science, ’00 DVM), professor and chair of the Department of Animal Science.

The ground meat is distributed to food banks and food pantries across the state through the Iowa Food Bank Association.

“The pandemic has impacted the lives of many Iowans due to job losses or reductions resulting in an increased need for food one to three times greater across Iowa than pre-COVID,” says Linda Gorkow, executive director of the Iowa Food Bank Association.

“These great collaborations help in the immense work to fight against hunger in Iowa.”

As of Nov. 1, Pass the Pork and Beef Up Iowa provided more than 29,000 pounds of ground pork and 33,000 pounds of ground beef processed at Iowa State.

Many individuals and companies have contributed to these programs in addition to Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.

Major donors to Pass the Pork as of Nov. 1 include: Landus Cooperative ($20,000), Stanley ($15,000), Alliant Energy ($10,000), MidAmerican Energy ($10,000), AT&T ($10,000), Doll Foods ($5,000), Conterra Ag ($5,000), Iowa Soybean Association ($5,000), Corteva ($5,000), Cactus Cares ($2,000) and William Napier ($2,000).

Beef Up Iowa major donors as of Nov. 1 include: Tyson ($50,000), Corteva ($20,000), Alliant Energy ($10,000) and Iowa Corn ($5,500).

Tyson provided $50,000 to the Beef Up Iowa program to purchase animals for processing. Pictured below from left: Rex Hoppes, Iowa Beef Industry Council; Matt Wenger, Iowa State University; Liz Croston, Tyson; Terry Houser, Iowa State University; Steve Stouffer, Tyson; Dr. Dan Thomson, Iowa State University; Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Julie Kenney; Addisyn Young, Beef Up Iowa participant; Lt. Governor Adam Gregg; Kinly Johnston, Beef Up Iowa participant; Shane Miller, Tyson; Dan Heffernan, Tyson; Linda Gorkow, Iowa Food Bank Association; Maynard Hogberg, Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation; Mary Greiman, Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation.