Chicago Bears’ wide receiver Earl Bennett teamed up with Illinois pork producers to pull in donations for the Northern Illinois Food Bank, including more than 4,700 pounds of fresh pork.

“Bears fans are generous, and the food drive offered a unique opportunity to give back to the community,” said Brent Scholl, a pork producer from Polo, Ill., who volunteered to help with the recent event at a Jewel-Osco store in Lake Forest, Ill.

Shoppers lined up to meet Bennett, who offered autographs and photos to those who donated at least five non-perishable food items or cash. In just two and a half hours, Bennett and the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) volunteers collected more than $400 and 144 pounds of non-perishable food. Illinois pork farmers went the extra yard by donating 4,700 pounds of fresh pork.

This donation couldn’t have come at a better time, said Donna Lake, director of communications for Northern Illinois Food Bank. In fiscal year 2013, the food bank distributed the equivalent of 42 million meals—a 45 percent increase since fiscal year 2010. 

“People are still hurting in our 13-county area, and we’re distributing more food than ever,” Lake said. “Protein is one of the most difficult items for our neighbors in need to obtain. Through the generosity of Illinois pork producers, we can provide quality nourishment to hungry neighbors.”

Pork Power Provides Millions of Meals 
Illinois farmers have been providing ground pork to food banks around Illinois since 2008, Scholl noted. The IPPA’s latest pork donation through the Jewel-Osco/Chicago Bears event was made possible by the Pork Power program, which is supported by the Illinois Soybean Association and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.

Through Pork Power, farmers donate live hogs or proceeds from the sale of hogs to participating meat processors. Eight food banks have benefitted from Pork Power donations in the last two months. During the last six years, Illinois farmers have donated 365,000 pounds of food, totaling more than 1.5 million meals, according to the IPPA.

DaBurger Showcases Ground Pork
During the recent Chicago Bears event at the Lake Forest Jewel-Osco, each donor received a $1-off coupon for ground pork.

“We’re pleased that the 167 Jewel-Osco stores in the Chicago area all carry ground pork now,” said Scholl, who runs a wean-to-finish swine operation.

Ground pork also highlights many IPPA promotions. The popular “Da Burger” ground pork sandwich is available at concession stands at Soldier Field in Chicago. The IPPA features Illinois’ signature ground pork, including recipes for DaBurger, at

Providing Hope for a Better Tomorrow
Scholl appreciates the opportunity to promote pork and meet consumers at events like the food drive in Lake Forest.

“As producers, our goal is to supply safe, high-quality food. We also want to show how pork producers are committed to doing the right thing.” 

Northern Illinois Food Bank is grateful for Illinois pork producers’ contributions.

“The awareness generated through the Jewel-Osco event helped provide more food to hungry neighbors,” Lake said. “This community spirit is what gives our hungry neighbors hope for a better tomorrow.”