Caring During COVID-19

By Kelly Visser, Iowa Food & Family Project

Iowans are generously and creatively supporting one another across the food supply chain.

Even during strained and uncertain times, Iowa farmers and agriculture organizations are finding ways to care for their communities. Below is a small sampling of the goodness across Iowa’s countryside. We’d also love to hear what other acts of goodwill you’ve noticed during this pandemic. Share your stories here.

Please note, by clicking the following links, you’ll be leaving a partially funded checkoff site. 

Pass the Pork

The Iowa Pork Producers Association and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship launched a new “Pass the Pork” program. Through the initiative, Iowa pig farmers are helping food insecure people by donating pigs to Iowa food banks. In turn, local meat processors are extending their hours of operation to process and package the pork donations to help meet the growing demand for food bank and food pantry resources.

While the pigs are being donated, funds are needed to cover costs with processing, storage and delivery. Individuals or organizations can donate to the Iowa Food Bank Association to fund the program.

The Iowa Soybean Association contributed $5,000 in non-checkoff funding in support of Pass the Pork. These resources will help increase the all-important distribution of protein to people and families in need.

Food Bank of Iowa Donations

The Food Bank of Iowa gathers food from individual donors, retail stores, food producers, wholesalers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It then safely distributes that food to a network of more than 625 partner agencies – food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, schools and others – and direct Food Bank of Iowa programs, serving an equivalent of 10 million meals each year. Iowa’s commodity organizations have long partnered with the Food Bank of Iowa to serve hungry Iowans, and that work continues during the pandemic.

To help with the logistics of meal distribution, Iowa Corn donated thousands of reusable grocery tote bags. And the Iowa Beef Industry Council donated 5,000 beef snack sticks in the name of Iowa’s beef farmers. The beef sticks were intended to be a post-workout snack during the Drake Relay’s, but with the cancellation of the event, the snacks found a good home with the Food Bank of Iowa.

Dairy Goodness

Midwest dairy farmers are “raising their hands” For School’s Sake to encourage donations to GENYouth’s Emergency School Nutrition Fund. The fund offers grant opportunities to ensure the more than 30 million students who depend on school meals for a substantial portion of their daily nutrition don’t go hungry during school closures.

Midwest Dairy is donating $500,000 to help food banks in the Midwest purchase dairy products. Dairy checkoff funds aren’t typically used to purchase dairy products, but the USDA has approved the proposal to get dairy into the hands of people who need it while keeping dairy supply chains active.

Protecting Farmers

Iowa has more than 72,000 farmers and farm laborers involved in the food supply chain. This number increases in the summer when farm work is more labor-intensive. To help protect this workforce during COVID-19, Proteus Inc., a Des Moines-based non-profit supporting agricultural workers with healthcare and educational resources, is collecting face masks to distribute to farm workers in need.

Cracking Hunger

Even though demand for shell eggs has increased during COVID-19, Iowa egg farmers are maintaining their commitment to the “Cracking Hunger” program, donating approximately 35,000 dozen eggs each month to Iowa’s food bank systems.

In addition, Iowa’s egg community is working to increase liquid egg products and hard-boiled egg donation to food banks. Many of Iowa’s egg farmers have also offered Personal Protective Equipment from their inventories for local hospitals and healthcare workers.