Several agricultural organizations and individuals have joined Indiana pork producers in supplying much needed food to Indiana’s 10 regional food banks.

The call for food bank support went out nearly 18 months ago, even as pork producers were facing some of the biggest financial losses in history. While it was a tough time for pork producers, others, too, were suffering under a depressed economy and job loss.

Indiana Pork Executive Director Mike Platt challenged producers and helped form an alliance with Feeding Indiana’s Hungry (FISH; www.feedingindianashungry.org). In August, during the 2009 Indiana State Fair, the “Million Meals” program was launched.

Under the program, Indiana Pork and a number of agricultural industry partners and individuals committed to donate one million servings of whole-hog ground pork per year to FISH. The frozen pork is donated in 2-lb. packages, the equivalent of eight 4-oz. servings of high-quality protein.

"The people I work with at the food bank in Gary, IN, tell us that their foodstuffs typically consist largely of starchy food," explains pork producer Malcolm DeKryger of Wheatfield, IN. "Part of what they do is try to teach people the value of a balanced diet. The food banks almost always have a profound need for good protein."

Early in 2010, Platt shared the Million Meals vision with representatives of Farm Credit Services of Mid-America (FCS), who quickly recognized the value of the program and wanted to help.

"It seemed like such a natural fit for us," explained northwest Indiana Regional Vice President Craig Blume. "My area includes six of the top 10 pork-producing counties in Indiana, plus we're a farmer-owned agricultural lending co-op. What a great opportunity for Farm Credit Services and our farmer-owners to be able to help feed the hungry, help distressed pork producers, and promote pork as a protein-rich component of a healthy diet."

Fellow FCS colleagues also joined in to donate $25,000 to the Million Meals program, enough to fund 100,000 servings of pork. "The support we've received from our industry partners, like Farm Credit Services, is the only way we could afford to take on something like this during a time of negative cash flows," DeKryger said.

"When a neighbor is hurting, you've got to reach out and try to make a difference in some small way, but you always come away more blessed. I've really enjoyed working with the people at the food bank – they are the angels of this world."