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 approximately 905,000 pounds of meat to Utahns in need over the last 10 years.
According to Jim Jensen, USU Extension state 4-H livestock and agriculture program leader, 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, their long-time 4-H club leader in Farmington, vice president of IT and administration for Questar Corp., and now Utah Food Bank board of directors member, 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,” Jensen said. “This year, 150,000 pounds of beef, pork, lamb and other food items were donated, which is up from the 92,000 pounds donated last year. Meat was donated from Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Wasatch, Morgan, Weber, Tooele and Rich counties to distribute to the 444,000 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 a number of the 4-H livestock sold at county and state fair auctions and livestock shows over the course of about four months, Jensen 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.
“One of the major aspects of the 4-H program is community service,” Jensen said. “It is great to team up with other agencies that need our help in an area where we can make a real difference. Our youth are not only getting the opportunity for service now, but they are also learning the importance of being a good citizen.”
Maxfield said he is very encouraged with the 4-H youth in our state and the responsibility they feel to take care of one another.
“This program started with six 4-H kids,” he said. “They realized there are people here in need, and 10 years later this program has grown to more than 900,000 pounds of donated meat given back to the community. I’ve encouraged these kids to never underestimate the power that one individual has. One thought to reach out to someone else or one kind thing you do to help someone else can mushrooms into events that can change whole communities, schools and families. I’m proud of these 4-H kids for thinking of other people at their young age. They’re going to be great ambassadors as they go forward.”