Oklahoma pork producers faced many obstacles due to COVID-19, but that did not keep them from supporting their state when so many other Oklahomans faced great needs.
When pork processing plants across the country had to operate at a reduced capacity, pigs were stuck on farms longer than usual. okPORK staff began to search for local processing plants that were available to process pork for donation to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma State University Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center answered that call and Prestage Farms of Oklahoma had pigs to donate.
"The reality that we have people in our great country who go hungry on a daily basis is tragic," says Greg Stephens, general manager for Prestage Farms of Oklahoma. "Any entity or individual that has resources to help alleviate this situation should feel morally obligated to help in any way possible."
Each week for four weeks in June and July, Lloyd Hawkins, okPORK community outreach specialist, drove a truck with a trailer loaned by Larry and Debra Cheatwood of Vanoss, Okla., to Texhoma, Okla., to pick up pigs and deliver them to Stillwater for processing.
Those pigs were processed into ground pork and delivered to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. The result of this effort was approximately 2,600 pounds, or 10,400 servings, of much-needed protein given to the families served by the food bank.
"We are so grateful for the Oklahoma Pork Council. Our partner agencies across central and western Oklahoma have seen a large increase in new clients during the COVID-19 pandemic," says Deb Bunting, interim CEO of the Regional Food Bank. "During these difficult times, it is so important that we are able to offer protein to Oklahomans living with food insecurity."
A key partner in this donation was the OSU Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center, known as FAPC.
"It was challenging to find a local processor who had the capacity to help us turn these pigs into a product that will benefit the food bank," says Roy Lee Lindsey, okPORK executive director. "We appreciate the FAPC staff fitting us into their busy schedule and making this project possible."
FAPC, a part of the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helps to discover, develop and deliver technical and business information that stimulates and supports the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.
"It was an honor to be able to harvest and process these animals for such a worthy cause," says Brandon Kahle, FAPC meat pilot plant manager. "The pandemic has certainly impacted the industry in many ways."
okPORK is grateful to everyone who was able to make this donation happen.