More than 200,000 servings of fresh ground pork will help feed Ontario families in need this year thanks to a grassroots fundraising initiative supported by hog farmers and their industry partners.
On Tuesday, July 14, the Pork Industry Gratitude Project announced that a combined total of $85,000 had been raised since April to support the Friends of the Food Bank program, which provides fresh ground pork to the Feed Ontario network of foodbanks. An additional $15,000 will be made available to county pork associations that will allow them to increase community-based food donations.
The Pork Industry Gratitude Project is a grassroots initiative launched by hog farmers in Perth County. They were looking to make a positive impact in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis.
Even as farmers themselves struggled with on-farm challenges and supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, organizers of the gratitude project saw three ways they could help make things better for others:
- Increasing support for the Feed Ontario, through the Ontario Pork Friends of the Food Bank Program
- Providing additional funds for community-based food giving by local pork associations
- Hosting Farmer-to-Frontline Worker Appreciation Box Lunches for employees at Ontario's two largest processing plants
With support from county-level pork associations, farming families, Ontario Pork and businesses connected to agriculture, the group exceeded its initial fundraising goal of $100,000 by more than a third. Gold level sponsors include South West Ontario Veterinary Services and Purina (Cargill). Silver level sponsors include Farmer's Farmacy/ Grand Valley Fortifiers, Synergy Swine Inc., Schlegel Home Farms and Floradale Feed Mill.
"We're incredibly grateful to see how the industry came together to have a positive impact during some challenging times that affected all of us," says John Nyenhuis, a Perth County farmer and one of the organizers of the Pork Industry Gratitude Project. "No matter what challenges they were facing on other fronts, these farmers, farm groups and businesses stepped up to help others. That's the spirit that makes me proud to be a pork producer."
Ontario's pork sector has a long history of involvement with Feed Ontario, but this is the largest single-year donation since the program began. Since 2013, Ontario Pork's Friends of the Food Bank program has donated 107,096 pounds of fresh ground pork to Feed Ontario. That's the equivalent of 726,062 adult servings, or 1,452,143 child-sized servings.
"The COVID-19 pandemic brought job losses and economic uncertainty across the province, resulting in food banks seeing a surge in demand as communities worked to adjust to a rapidly changing world," says Carolyn Stewart-Stockwell, executive director of Feed Ontario. "Having a reliable supply of healthy, fresh protein makes a huge difference in the lives of individuals and families facing food insecurity. We're very appreciative of the efforts of the pork industry to make that happen — particularly when our province needed this support the most."
Pork donations will take place over several months, based on food bank and processing capacity. The first donation took place in early July, with 3,700 pounds of fresh ground pork delivered to Feed Ontario through the Ontario Pork Friends of the Food Bank program.