Food banks and charitable organizations are usually successful in collecting cans and boxes of food, but donated meat has been harder to come by.A group of Utah State University Extension 4-H youths and leaders are working to change this. Saturday, Sept. 26, they will be at the Utah Food Bank warehouse in Salt Lake City, 1025 S. 700 West, sorting meat into small boxes that will be shipped throughout Utah to feed hungry families. Approximately 120,000 pounds of meat will be donated through the program.The project began in 2005 when the Farmington 4-H Lamb Club donated a few hundred pounds of meat to charity as a service project, said Justen Smith, USU Extension agricultural and 4-H youth agent for Davis County.”We called some local churches and asked them to identify families in need,” Smith said. “We then loaded the meat up in pickup trucks and made deliveries to the church parking lots.”Kelly Maxfield, a long-time 4-H club leader in Farmington, started using his corporate connections, and donations came in from most of the northern Utah counties, said Smith. Now it not only involves 4-H youths but dozens of other people who donate trucking, packing, fuel and time to the project. This year, meat has been donated from 11 Utah counties, one county in Idaho and another in Wyoming.Donors raise enough money to buy most of the 4-H livestock sold at county and state fair auctions and livestock shows over the course of about four months, Smith said. The auction “floor price” goes to the 4-H participants and the meat goes to the food bank, so everyone wins. Now, every September, volunteers from all over the state help sort and package the thousands ofpounds of meat donated to the Utah Food Bank.”This amount of meat is something we wouldn’t normally get at the Food Bank — high quality beef, pork and lamb,” said Jim Pugh, executive director of the Utah Food Bank. “This donation will make a huge difference in what we can offer needy families.”According to Utah Food Bank statistics, the 4-H Meat Donation Program accounts for about 5 percent of the annual donated meat.A major change that will help the program grow even larger is that the Utah Food Bank can now accept meat from state-inspected slaughter facilities. Up until 2008, they could only accept meat from USDA-inspected facilities. This regulatory change will allow the use of substantially more processing facilities.”This program teaches people they don’t have to go around the world to help with a natural disaster,” said Maxfield. “Just walk down the street and you can see personal tragedy in the form of starving families. I tip my hat to all the 4-Hers and volunteers who help with this. They make me feel very good about the future.”
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