At the very heart of it, the reason we raise pigs is to help provide food for our families, our neighbors and for those well beyond our borders. Unfortunately, COVID-related challenges have deepened food insecurity for millions of Americans. In a state like Iowa, known for its agricultural production, 11% of residents are struggling with hunger.
As pork producers and Americans, we don't want to see anyone struggling with food insecurity. We care not only for our pigs, but our communities. These are shared values among hog farmers nationwide.
This Thanksgiving, as we give thanks for our blessings, many of us will continue to help those who are less fortunate. The National Pork Producers Council just launched its "Give-a-Ham" program, a national social media campaign encouraging hog farmers and those involved in the industry to donate pork to organizations serving the food insecure, and challenging others to follow suit.
Throughout this pandemic, the Iowa pork community has made numerous contributions to donate food and personal protective equipment to first responders and those in need.
During the early stages of COVID-19, when we had PPE shortages for healthcare providers and first responders, Iowa pig farmers stepped up, providing nearly 2,000 N95 masks and many other types of PPE from our on-farm supplies to help fill that shortage. Additionally, this summer, several county pork producer organizations brought their grills to hospital parking lots to provide freshly cooked pork meals for health care workers, while also distributing 42,000 pork sticks to first responders, health care workers and school children.
There have been many examples of pig farmers across the country donating hogs, pork and dollars to our food banks and pantries. In Iowa, we established a program called "Pass the Pork," which facilitated the donation of pigs by hog farmers to local meat lockers, which processed the animals into food for those in need.
The "Pass the Pork" program has evolved, and to date has been responsible for donating nearly 93,000 pounds of pork, or the equivalent of 282,000 meals. That alone is a wonderful accomplishment, but what has been even more inspirational is the way others in our communities have rallied during this challenging time. Many independent pork producers, for example, have reached out to their churches or local food panties to expand their giving. One pork producer even tripled his monthly donation to help meet the growing need for food in the community.
Producers, integrators and processors have increased pork donations to food banks, pantries and meal events with an additional 64,000 pounds of pork, or 256,000 meal servings.
We also stood beside our plant workers, acknowledging their work in keeping America's food supply chain operating during distressing times. In Iowa, county pork producers banded together to serve more than 4,600 meals to plant workers to thank them.
Iowa was not only dealing with COVID-related challenges, but in August the state suffered widespread damage and destruction from the derecho storm. The Iowa pork community, many of whom were dealing with major crop damage themselves, stepped in to collectively provide more than 25,000 pork meals for those dealing with prolonged power outages, as well as the many power crews working long hours to get everyone back online.
Iowa's pork community also distributed pork coupons, assembled buddy backpacks and distributed masks for those who needed them.
I'm proud of the way the Iowa pork industry has stepped up, providing food and other necessities in our state during the past nine months. I'm also proud knowing that pig farmers and others in the pork industry across our great nation are taking care of their communities through pork and dollar donations.
We support our communities because We Care. In the spirit of this Thanksgiving season, thank you to my fellow hog community for what you do.
Trish Cook and her husband, Aaron, own and operate their family farm in northeast Iowa. They have a farrow-to-finish farm, and raise corn and soybeans. They have been recognized as Iowa Master Pork Producers, Pork All Americans, and are recipients of the Good Farm Neighbor Award. Trish is a 25-year member of the county pork producers, actively hosts events at the farm to provide a transparent look at pork production, and is serving her first term on the Iowa Pork Producers Association board of directors.