The Pass the Pork program that has enabled Iowa pig farmers to help bring nearly 200,000 servings of pork to food-insecure Iowans is entering a new phase. After nearly three months of securing 451 donated pigs and funds to pay for processing at local meat lockers which had extended their work hours to help out, the program will switch processing to Iowa State University (ISU) Meat Laboratory. The money for processing will come from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act.
When the program began April 27, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) partnered with the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA), local meat lockers, and the Iowa Food Bank Association (IFBA) to address two problems created by the novel coronavirus: pigs on farms that couldn’t move into their typical marketing channels and an increasing need at food banks working to support unemployed Iowans.
Unfortunately, those two situations still exist.
“We know that producers are going through an extremely challenging time and we are pursuing every option to help,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “We worked with Gov. Kim Reynolds to secure CARES Act funds to cover processing costs for the Pass the Pork program. This is just one way the state is supporting producers while providing locally-grown protein for hungry Iowans.”
Through the generosity of Iowans across the state, the first phase of Pass the Pork raised $115,000 to process 50,000 pounds of pork, which IFBA has distributed to all six regional food banks serving Iowa.
“Although we have had challe
nges on the farm, we also see our friends and neighbors struggling with jobs and wondering how they will put food on the table, too. By moving into Phase II of Pass the Pork, we can continue to bring pork to our local communities when they need it most,” said Mike Paustian, the Walcott farmer who is IPPA president.
In Phase II, pigs will be delivered to ISU’s Meat Lab for processing, beginning in mid-August and continuing through early November. IPPA will coordinate the delivery of pigs.
“We are very grateful for the opportunity to be able to help those in need while training students at the same time,” said Terry Houser, ISU Extension Meat Specialist. “It is great to see what we can accomplish when industry and state resources come together for such a worthy cause. We have a great staff of caring, hardworking individuals at the ISU Meat Lab and without them, all this would not be possible.”
“The pandemic resulted in double digit increases in need for food in Iowa, so our deepest appreciation goes to all who have made the Pass The Pork program a reality” said Linda Gorkow, the executive director of the Iowa Food Bank Association. “This innovative initiative is making an impact to ensure essential protein is made available to thousands of Iowans in need of food assistance.”
The ISU Meat Lab is also working to process Iowa beef, which goes to Iowa food banks, too. Both the pork and beef efforts are part of Gov. Reynolds’ Feeding Iowans Task Force led by Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg.
Farmers interested in donating pigs to this second phase of Pass the Pork should contact Emma Lasco at IPPA (elasco AT iowapork.org). The number to call is (515) 225-7675.