COLUMBIA, Mo. – More than 1.1 million Missourians are food insecure. Missouri Farmers Care and Missouri 4-H are working with pork producers, meat processors and now FFA and 4-H youths to help curb food insecurity in the state.
“I think students might be the best poised to understand the impact of hunger, because they can see it firsthand in their classmates,” said Ashley McCarty, director of the Missouri Farmers Care Foundation. “It’s really hard to focus on math when your tummy is rumbling.”
To combat food insecurity, Missouri Farmers Care has collaborated with nonprofits, farmers, processors and food banks to build the Drive to Feed Kids campaign, which began in 2017.
The latest project of Drive to Feed Kids is Hogs for Hunger. “Hogs for Hunger is a vision we’ve had for a couple of years,” McCarty said. “The program is growing from last year’s pork processing partnership created during COVID-19 to help provide food for Missourians affected by the pandemic. This year we’re not only inviting hog producers across the state to be a part of this initiative to curb food insecurity, but we also want to invite FFA as well as 4-H students and families to join the effort.”
Youths involved in FFA and 4-H livestock exhibits can donate hogs after show season to help feed families in need. Individuals interested in donating can fill out an online form saying they are committed to donating one or more hogs to reduce food insecurity in the state. Missouri Farmers Care will work with donors to have the livestock processed locally or after the state fair’s market show.
“We recognize that it is a big ask and a big donation for exhibitors, but the donation has a tremendous impact,” McCarty said. “We want to make it as easy as possible. Many Missouri meat processors have indicated interest in supporting Hogs for Hunger efforts, and Missouri Farmers Care will pay for processing up to $100 a hog.”
No one is immune to food insecurity; it’s an issue neighbors, friends and family members could be dealing with, said Kari Asbury, outreach coordinator for Missouri Farmers Care.
“Hunger reaches every county in Missouri,” Asbury said. “Nationwide, 86% of counties that have a high child food insecurity rate are actually our rural counties, and this is where our food abundance is being produced. However, it’s a matter of getting that food into households.”
Tylan Peckman, a University of Missouri assistant extension professor and state 4-H agriculture specialist, is an adviser for Hogs for Hunger, helping connect exhibitors and consumers through the food bank system.
“Hogs for Hunger is a way to elevate a 4-H member’s project experience,” Peckman said. “They’ve hopefully gained an understanding of how to take care of livestock as well as basic animal training. Now, with Hogs for Hunger, students can come full circle to see how these livestock that we raise for food production can be turned into something that can be consumed through the food supply chain in a safe and wholesome manner.”
When Missouri Farmers Care partnered with Missouri 4-H, it was a natural fit, Peckman said. Hogs for Hunger drives home two of 4-H’s main missions: youth development and community service.
“I would encourage our 4-H youth involved in agriculture projects to find ways they can help address food shortages and hunger issues in their local community, whether it’s looking up how to donate some of their livestock projects throughout the year to local food banks or committing to the Hogs for Hunger program this show season,” Peckman said. “Being secure in terms of knowing where your food is coming from and not having to worry about that next meal, I think really gives fellow students and families a sense of freedom to start exploring and expanding in other aspects of their life.”
Donating one pig can feed up to 525 people in need, depending on live weight of the hog and dressing percentage when it is taken to a local processor.
Missouri Farmers Care and Missouri 4-H would like to see Hogs for Hunger positively affect all 114 counties and the city of St. Louis. For more information on how to get involved, visit MoFarmersCare.com/hogs-for-