The Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA), Illinois Corn Marketing Board (ICMB) and the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) recently presented more than 34,000 pounds of ground pork to the eight regional food banks associated with Feeding Illinois as part of the Pork Power: Partnering to Fight Hunger in Illinois campaign. This donation will provide more than 136,000 meals to families throughout Illinois.

The donations were made during September Hunger Action Month, which raises awareness of the on-going problem of hunger in Illinois and across the country.

The eight regional foodbanks associated with Feeding Illinois receiving the ground pork were:

-          Greater Chicago Food Depository in Chicago = 4,358 pounds

-          Northern Illinois Food Bank – Rockford Area Center = 3,900 pounds

-          Peoria Area Food Bank in Peoria = 4,498 pounds

-          River Bend Foodbank in Moline = 4,294 pounds

-          Central Illinois Foodbank in Springfield = 4,200 pounds

-          Eastern Illinois Foodbank in Urbana = 4,294 pounds

-          St. Louis Area Foodbank in St. Louis, MO = 4,300 pounds

-          Tri-State Foodbank in Evansville, IN = 4,300 pounds

Feeding Illinois’ food banks are partners to Feeding America - the largest hunger relief organization in the United States. Feeding Illinois provides food to nearly 2,000 food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters that feed nearly 1.4 million residents throughout the state of Illinois. 

The donated pork was provided through checkoff funds of the pork, corn and soybean groups as well as cash donations from pork producers and consumers. Bids were received from local meat processors associated with the Illinois Association of Meat Processors (IAMP). The ground pork was sourced from five Illinois meat processors: YT Packing, Springfield; Behrmann Meat & Processing, Albers; Eickman’s Processing, Seward; Raber Packing, Peoria; Thrushwood Farms Quality Meats, Galesburg.

In 2008, IPPA launched Pork Power with the goal of helping fight hunger in Illinois. It provides a system for farmers to donate pork to food banks associated with Feeding Illinois. IPPA has partnered with the ICMB, ISA and IAMP in this effort. During the four years, Pork Power has generated more than 242,000 pounds of pork - enough for more than 970,000 meals - for families throughout Illinois.       The Pork Power program is also an opportunity to promote pork as families are educated on how to prepare and incorporate pork into their favorite dishes. Families receive information on the important nutritional, mental and physical benefits of including protein in the diet.

“Pork producers are committed to helping their neighbors throughout the state who are having difficulty feeding their families,” said Mike Haag, a pork producer from Emington and current President of the IL Pork Producers Association (www.ilpork.com). “Illinois pork producers are dedicated to producing safe, wholesome and affordable food and are proud to work with the partnering organizations to support Feeding Illinois.”

Bill Christ, a corn farmer from Metamora, Ill., and current Chairman of the IL Corn Marketing Board (www.ilcorn.org) explains that the partnership is the right thing to do at the right time. “This type of project is a winning situation for everyone involved, not just the Corn Marketing Board or pork producers, but most importantly, our neighbors throughout Illinois will receive protein which is vital to everyone's nutritional needs. I’m glad that Illinois corn farmers can help make pork available at a local level.”

Pork Power is a natural partnership for soybean farmers, says Pat Dumoulin, a soybean and hog farmer from Hampshire, Ill. and Illinois Soybean Association (www.ilsoy.org) board member. “It is important for all of the Illinois commodity groups to work together for a common goal,” Dumoulin said. “As farmers, it is our responsibility to feed the world. The Pork Power program helps us start by feeding those in need in Illinois while also promoting the livestock industry, which is the top consumer of soybeans.”

Each day, Illinois food banks provide access to healthy and nutritious food in an effort to keep families across Illinois from going to bed hungry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends meat protein as part of a nutritious and healthy diet but because of limited supply it is often difficult for food banks to provide adequate access to protein. 

“We are so grateful for this donation of nutritious protein,” said Tracy Smith, State Director for Feeding Illinois (www.feedingillinois.org). “This donation comes at a critical time with reserves at food banks being very low due to the increase in demand. Food banks have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of people seeking food assistance in the past year,” said Smith. “Because of partners like the IL Pork Producers Association, IL Soybean Association, and IL Corn Marketing Board we will be able to put food on the table for thousands of Illinois families.”