Pork producers across the country have stepped up the challenge to "Give-A-Ham" and donate "Pounds of Pork" this holiday season.
As CEO of Minnesota Pork Board, Jill Resler said it was a privilege, on behalf of Minnesota's 3,000-plus pork producers, to donate 100 pounds of ham to the Ronald McDonald House Charities, Upper Midwest food program to serve families with seriously ill or injured children.
"During times of adversity the food and fellowship shared around a table can provide certainty and comfort," Resler said. "There is no one more qualified to provide nutritious, high-quality protein than Minnesota pig farmers."
The National Pork Board and several state pork associations also partnered with Farmland, a brand of Smithfield Foods, and country music superstar Luke Bryan's Farm Tour concert series this year to donate 210,000 pounds of pork to food banks. An estimated total of 1 million servings of pork was divided among the following food banks:
- Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana
- Greater Lansing Food Bank (Michigan)
- Second Harvest Ohio
- Second Harvest Heartland (Minnesota)
- Food Bank of Iowa
- Food Bank for the Heartland (Nebraska)
"Caring for our communities is at the heart of what pig farmers do every day, which is why we are excited to give back at this scale with the support of Farmland and Luke Bryan," said Brad Hennen, Minnesota Pork Board president. "The state's 3,000 pig farmers take pride in helping nourish families and communities by raising nutritious food, providing 34,000 jobs and contributing $6 billion in economic value to the state."
Illinois pork producers participate in the 2022 Give-A-Ham challenge
Since its inception in 2017, the Illinois Pork Producers Association has been participating in the National Pork Producers Council #GiveaHam challenge, an annual social media campaign that encourages people across the country to donate pork to organizations serving the food insecure.
This year, in conjunction with The National Day of Giving, the IPPA took part in the #GiveaHam challenge by celebrating "Hams for Heroes," an original campaign created by the IPPA to supply military families in need with holiday hams.
IPPA President Thomas Titus of Elkhart, Illinois, attended the event and presented 180 half boneless hams to Lt. Col. Michael Legler of the Illinois Army and Reserve Air National Guard based out of Springfield. Legler will arrange for 13 military family readiness specialists in Illinois to coordinate the delivery of the donated hams to military families across our state. Group locations for the military readiness group include one in Machesney Park, near Rockford; four in the Chicago area, and one in Marseilles. The other eight stretch from Milan to Marion.
"Many pig farmers have loved ones who currently serve or have served our country," said Titus. "These hams are just a small token of the Illinois Pork Producers Association's appreciation to the men and women who serve in the military. Personally, my grandfather, my uncle and my brother have all served, and it it makes me proud to be a part of today's event."
Once the "Hams for Heroes" donation commenced, Titus challenged the Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture Jerry Costello, to continue the cycle of giving by donating hams to a donee of the Illinois Department of Agriculture's s choice. Costello then challenged Commissioner Tom Peterson of the State of Minnesota to Give-A-Ham to a donee of his choice.
Iowa groups come together for 'Lend A Ham' event
For the sixth year, Iowa pork producers and Fareway joined together to prepare and deliver hearty breakfast meals to adults experiencing homelessness in the Des Moines area. The effort, called Lend a Ham, takes place on Giving Tuesday each year, and serves clients of Central Iowa Shelter & Services in Des Moines.
As Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig described it: "It's a partnership of farmers and a great Iowa company that is providing meals to more than 300 Iowans, and that’s amazing."
"Giving to our communities is one of our passions," said Iowa pig farmer Kevin Rasmussen of Goldfield. Rasmussen is president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.
"The shelter is doing amazing things for its clients by working with the community to engage so many to volunteer and help out," said Jeff Cook, vice president of market operations at Fareway. "At Fareway, we're proud to be a part of the initiative and annual tradition on Giving Tuesday."
Melissa O'Neil, CEO of CISS, said CISS relies on collaborations such as this to bring new volunteers to its efforts. For many that attend the event to help, this is the first time they've been involved in a CISS activity, and it shows them ways they can make a difference for Iowans in need. "As the months get colder, we need more volunteers, especially in January and February," she said.
Not new as volunteers in helping to serve the meals were Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Secretary of Agriculture Naig. Both have attended past Lend a Ham events, helping to serve CISS clients.
The food donations for the event come through Fareway and many of their suppliers and included 100 pounds of bacon, 50 pounds of sausage patties, 120 pounds of eggs, 48 packages of hashbrowns, 85 loaves of cinnamon raisin bread, 240 pounds of oranges, 200 pounds of apples, 12 cans of coffee, more than 750 packets of hot cocoa, 500 individual servings of orange juice, 500 individual servings of milk and more than 500 bottled waters.