State and National Swine Associations Give Back During the Pandemic

Spotlight on Iowa Pass the Pork Program

By Mikaela Hadaway

Around mid-March 2020, the IPPA received many messages from farmers that they were having issues marketing their hogs, due to the effects of COVID. Thinking quickly and with the help of the Iowa Food Bank Association, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Governor’s Feeding Iowa Taskforce, they were able to team up with producers to donate and process hogs for communities in need. Toward the last half of 2020, they also received help from the Iowa State University Meat Lab. There, donated pigs were processed and some of the donated dollars were used to purchase raw pork product and grind it. All of this was then donated to the 6 food banks in Iowa and distributed.

Joyce Hoppes & Ethan Bubeck loading donations
Joyce Hoppes & Ethan Bubeck loading boxes onto a truck

Pork donations being loaded on Iowa Food Bank truck
Pork donations being loaded on Iowa Food Bank truck from a smaller truck

With over 122,150 lbs. of processed pork donated, the Pass the Pork Program has been able to provide 488,500 protein servings to families across Iowa. But the Iowa Pork Producers didn’t stop there, they also held several different events and activities including, but not limited to:

  • Allamakee County: Grilled 261 meals for first responders.
  • Bremer & Chickasaw Counties: Distributed 854 pork sticks to three school districts in their counties.
  • Carroll County: Daughter of pork producer left snacks and notes to lift the spirits of truckers delivering feed to her family’s farm.
  • Clay County: “Spencer Cares”, a community led effort in Clay county, distributed 1,500-2,000 loins to those in need. They repeated the effort in December.
  • Chickasaw & Howard Counties: Provided 500 pork snack sticks to Turkey Valley Schools to add to their bag lunches for local children.
  • Grundy County: Provided care packages for care facilities throughout Grundy County.
  • Humboldt County: Lisa Rasmussen and her daughter made headbands with buttons for frontline workers to use with their masks. The headbands helped relieve chafing around the ears.
  • Jones County: Delivered pork snack sticks to frontline workers at clinics, EMS, and at an electric cooperative. Jones County also grilled for derecho relief workers in Cedar Rapids.
  • Lyon County: Donated 250 pork snack sticks for sack lunches to both George-Little Rock Community School District and West Lyon Community School District.
  • Mitchell County: Thanks to Brad Farmer and others in Mitchell County, 32 different families in the area each received a quarter of a hog.
  • Plymouth County: Delivered pig cookies in May for mental health month to thank producers for their hard work through tough times.
  • Plymouth County: Helped with a multi-state BBQ for Smithfield in Sioux Falls.
  • Scott County: Rachel Ehlers (daughter of Brian & Angie Ehlers) made 125 t-shirt bags to be filled with food at the Buffalo Food Pantry.
  • Sioux County: Donated 2,000 pounds of pork for a drive-thru food distribution in Sioux City.
  • Story County: Aligned with allied industry leaders to fund the donation of 4,000 pounds of pork to 30 locations that support schools, families, and military personnel. They also donated ground pork and pork sticks to a local food pantry and to Mary Greeley Paramedics.
  • Washington County: Gave pork cash to frontline workers for pork meals.
  • Washington County: Grilled 78 pork loins for 1,500 Tyson Foods workers in Columbus Junction.
  • Webster County: Donated 2,000 pork sticks to the Dayton and Gowrie Buddies Back pack Program for after-school snacks.

There is no doubt the IPPA team has dedicated their time to giving back but Pass the Pork has been the largest of its type. So, the big question is, will Pass the Pork continue even after the pandemic is over? The answer is, hopefully yes!

Story County Pork Producers donating a portion of their ground pork to Food at First in Ames, Iowa
Story County Pork Producers on staircase with their donation sof ground pork

Washington Pork Producers grilling for food workers
Washington Pork Producers standing in front of food truck looking at camera

IPPA is still working with the Iowa State Meat lab processing donations. Hopefully before the end of 2021, they can develop a self-funding program that will allow farmers to donate hogs and provide ways for companies and groups to fund donations. In return, the funds can be used to process raw product. Another goal with this program is to potentially compensate farmers for the donations. The idea is like that of the Help Us Stop Hunger (HUSH) program, where Iowa deer hunters can donate their deer for lockers to process. Those donations are also given to the Iowa Food Banks.

Nurse from Anamosa, Iowa receiving pork stick donations for frontline workers.
Nurse from Anamosa, Iowa holding up a paper bag containing pork stick donations for frontline workers

Pork stick donations for New Hampton, Iowa used for bag lunches for local children
Woman holding up pork stick donations for New Hampton, Iowa used for bag lunches for local children

Iowa pig farmers are not alone when it comes to creating programs to get food on tables for families hit with job losses and COVID-19 expenses. So many other state and pork organizations dedicated their time to giving back. The National Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council had programs as well, like Give-a-Ham. When asked if the IPPA would like to work with other states, Joyce responded, “It’s better. The more groups you have involved the better and stronger the program is.”

Of course, Joyce and her team couldn’t have done this alone. Along with the help of those that created Pass the Pork, they also give a huge thank you to all their sponsors, donors, lockers, ISU Meat Lab, and news outlets that helped share their message.

If you take anything away from this article, know that there continues to be a need to help those in communities and a farmer’s belief is to help. Even while facing their own personal challenges, farmers put their heart and soul into what they do. Across the country, region and globe, their goal is the same. Farmers want to be involved to help their communities grow anyway they can.

We hope that everyone will continue to stay active in state and national programs and know that the families you help are thankful for your contributions. For more information about Pass the Pork and other programs, visit the Iowa Pork Producer Association website at: https://www.iowapork.org/.

Pass the Pork logo