Food banks and charitable organizations are usually successful in collecting cans and boxes of food, but donated meat is harder to come by. A group of Utah State University Extension 4-H youth from Farmington wanted to change this and found a way to donate high-quality meat to the Utah Food Bank in 2005. They created what has now become an annual program that has provided 761,000 pounds of meat to Utahns in need over the last 8 years.
According to Justen Smith, USU Extension Davis County director, the Farmington 4-H Lamb Club began the donated meat project by giving a few hundred pounds of meat to charity as their service project that first year. Then Kelly Maxfield, a long-time 4-H club leader in Farmington and now Utah Food Bank board chairman, got help from his corporate connections, and donations came in from most of the northern Utah counties to pay for the meat.
“Now it not only involves 4-H youth, but many other people who donate trucking, packing, fuel and time to the project,” Smith said. “This year, 92,000 pounds of meat were donated from Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Wasatch, Morgan, Millard, Tooele and Uinta (Wyoming) counties to distribute to the 472,000 Utahns in need with the help of approximately 120 volunteers. It’s amazing how the program has grown.”
The project works so well because donors raise enough money to buy up 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-Hers, and the meat goes to the food bank, so everyone wins. Now, every fall, volunteers from all over the state help sort and package the thousands of pounds of meat donated to the Utah Food Bank in Salt Lake City. The meat is then distributed by the food bank’s 130 partnering agencies throughout the state.
“The significance of this program cannot be underestimated,” said Ginette Bott, Utah Food Bank chief development officer. “Not only do the clients receive rarely available, highly nutritious meat products, but Utah Food Bank especially takes pride in the fact that many counties statewide are having a direct impact on our mission of Fighting Hunger Statewide.”
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,” he said. “I tip my hat to all the 4-Hers who helped with this. They make me feel very good about the future.”