(La Porte County, IN) - More than $20,000 in meat from animals raised by local 4-H youth was donated to feed the hungry with help from Indiana Farm Bureau.
The rapidly growing effort is in LaPorte County, where farming is a significant part of the local economy.
Dozens of volunteers on August 9 delivered 3,000 pounds of frozen meat to nearly 30 food pantries and soup kitchens in the county of more than 100,000 residents.
"We want to see the quality meat raised within LaPorte County feed our community," said Mark Parkman, President of the LaPorte County branch of Indiana Farm Bureau.
One or two animals shown by 4-H youth during the LaPorte County Fair were always purchased and processed to help feed the hungry.
With help from the La Porte County Agricultural Association and private businesses, more animals were bought from 4-H youth for the cause last year, which produced 750 pounds of meat for the needy.
The total skyrocketed after the LaPorte County branch of the Indiana Farm Bureau joined the effort this year and bought animals from close to a dozen 4-H members at the livestock auction during the fair last month.
"They were a huge contributor," said LaPorte County Agricultural Association Treasurer Catherine Mrozinski
The animals were processed into one-pound packages of ground beef, pork, sheep, and goat. In addition, some of the meat was in the form of sausage and lamb chops.
Sims Meat Processing in Kingsbury cut and packaged all of the meat and donated their services for two of the animals.
The LaPorte County branch of Indiana Farm Bureau also split the processing costs with The Old Sheep Farm, the LaPorte County Sheep Breeders Association, Parkman Cattle, and 1st Source Bank.
Mrozinski said the goal next year is to distribute 5,000 pounds of meat.
“I’m really hopeful we can grow this to be even bigger and better next year. It’s contagious,” Mrozinski said.
Parkman said the effort also puts money into the hands of more 4-H youth who, otherwise, might not have a buyer for their animals.
“It’s just a win, win for us. I love it,” Parkman said.
The recipients included The Pax Center, Salvation Army, Rolling Prairie Food Pantry, and Westville United Methodist Church.
Volunteers carried boxes of frozen meat from the Community Building at the LaPorte County Fairgrounds to their vehicles and delivered the food to each pantry.
Mrozinski said all the recipients are asked in advance if there's particular meat they want the most to serve the needs of patrons whose preferences might lean to goat or lamb, instead of pork, for religious purposes.
“It’s not just take what you can get. We can actually provide them with some pretty awesome meat they don’t normally get,” Mrozinski said.
LaPorte County Farm Bureau member Matt Schafer said the effort also helps 4-H members cope with losing animals with which they've become attached. For example, his nine-year-old son, Lucas, had a 1,300-pound cross-bred steer bought and processed for the cause.
"One of the things that Lucas found comforting was that his animal was going to go to help people in need. That kind of eased the sting," Schafer said.