HANNIBAL | Food pantries and senior centers received more than 8,500 pounds ground pork on Thursday to help meet an overwhelming increase in need caused by the COVID-19 emergency.
The United Way of the Mark Twain Area brought together several area agencies and is partnering with local food pantries and senior centers to help provide meals for those in need as part of its response to job losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social service agencies that address hunger have been overwhelmed in Northeast Missouri – and across Missouri and the nation – as more people are thrown out of work because of coronavirus business disruptions.
Denise Damron, executive director of United Way, said the pork was made possible by a donation of 100 hogs from JBS Pork, about two weeks ago. Joe Kendrick, a Monroe City area farmer, reached out to United Way to participate in Aly's Project – an initiative where local youth can donate livestock after fair season to food pantries and senior centers.
Kendrick contracts with JBS, which currently is not taking cull hogs – animals that may have a hernia or do not make market weight. Rather than destroy and bury hogs, Kendrick wanted them to be used to feed people in the area.
“At United Way, it was great to connect so many resources together to make this project come to fruition,” Damron said. “We knew our local food pantries were hurting. Due to COVID-19, they are being relied upon now more than ever before. Due to changes within the ag industry, we also were made aware that there were hogs available through JBS Pork.”
Damron said that Continental Cement and Green America Recycling stepped up to donate $9,500 to get the hogs processes.
“We know that thousands will be fed because of this project. At United Way, we simply act as the conduit connecting needs and resources. We were able to do this to make this pork donation come to fruition in our community,” Damron said.
Distribution of the pork to food banks and senior centers took place in Douglass Community Services parking lot in Hannibal.
Stacey Nicholas, director of community outreach for Douglass Community Services, said her agency is seeing many first-time users due to the job losses caused by the business slowdown. It has created a financial hardship for many middle-class wage-earners.
“We'll probably be able to give every one of our 500 clients a month some sausage,” Nicholas said. “Protein is hard to get when you are in pantries or relying on donated food, so it's going to make a very big difference for those families. One of the reasons why I like my job is that we get to be in a business where we are always making a difference. It is really important to me that the first-time people who come through get treated with respect and kindness, so they know they can come back when they have a need.”
As with many other food pantries, she said that Douglass Community Services operates on donations only, meaning that the increased demand is creating issues with having enough food to meet demand.
“When Denise at the United Way says I have 2,000 pounds of pork for you, that's almost better than Christmas, because of all the people it can help,” Nicholas said. “There is absolutely no way we have the financial resources to acquire that.”
Organizations that received pork were senior centers in Paris, Monroe City, Hannibal and Shelby County, along with food pantries in Hannibal, Monroe City and Paris.
“Literally thousands of meals will be able to be served because of this project. When we are talking about feeding people, when you are able to feed thousands of people, what a great impact you are able to make,” Damron said. “I grew up on a farm, and food was something that I was never concerned about. I also never realized that people in my own community were concerned about food.”
The United Way also announced grants that have been made since early March, when the agency deployed its COVID- 19 Emergency Fund: Koch Wholesale for senior bags, $2,108.
Douglass Community Services, $1,000 Paris Senior Citizens Community Center, $1,500.
Monroe City Senior Nutrition Center, $1,500.
Harvest Outreach, $1,000.
Tri-County Alliance, $10,000 Monroe City Food Pantry, $2,000 Turning Point, $1,000.
HAYS, $2,000 Salvation Army, $2,000.
The Child Center, $1,500.