Despite living through some of the worst times in memory, pork producers in southeastern Manitoba have dramatically increased their support to their local food bank.
Last year, they donated $1,000 to the Helping Hands food bank. This year, the district’s producers have volunteered to donate at least one kilogram of pork for every food bank hamper that goes out, all year long, which amounts to approximately a $3,600 annual gift.
“I think pork producers realize that there are always people worse off than themselves,” said Tom Leppelmann, a delegate for Manitoba Pork Council’s District 9. “We’ve had a few challenging years, but it hasn’t been an issue to get the volume of pigs to meet the requirements of the food bank. Producers in our area were all very eager and thrilled to be part of it.”
But there’s more to this donation than just handing over a few pigs. The district’s pork producers actually helped create an entire value chain to support the food bank. Country Meat and Sausage of Blumenort offered its services as abattoir, while Earls Meat Market of Steinbach generously stepped forward to be the butcher for the program.
Leppelmann also lined up assembly yards – Quintaine’s and Park’s – where producers could drop off their animals, and Steve’s Livestock Transport volunteered to deliver them if needed.
The ongoing donation means about two animals per week make it to the food bank for its hampers, which amounts to approximately $300 per month. The entire chain has come together to turn a bunch of small donations into a large continuous gift.
“The whole thing started around Christmas last year, but it took us until about June to get up and running,” said Marg Rempel, a pork producer from the Ste. Anne area, who was recently named Philanthropist of the Year in 2009 by the Loewen Foundation and the Steinbach Community Foundation.
“We have lots of enthusiasm and willingness to participate, but the program is still in its infancy. We haven’t done as much as we hope to be able to do one day.”
There are many similar examples of this spirit of feeding the hungry across the province’s pork industry. Every April, for example, Manitoba Pork Council donates one tonne of sausages to Winnipeg Harvest.
And last spring, the Manitoba Pork Council was also presenting sponsor of Food Cycle 2009, an event to raise awareness, food and money for Manitoba food banks and the Manitoba Association of Food Banks. The cycling event ran along the 1,286 kilometres of Trans Canada Trail from the Saskatchewan border to Shoal Lake. Manitoba Pork cooked and served 175 pounds of pork at various stops along the way.
“It doesn’t surprise me that the producers in the southeast have stepped forward to help the less fortunate in their community,” said Susan Riese, consumer marketing and community relations manager for the Manitoba Pork Council. “No matter what kind of financial hardship they’ve endured, I’ve found pork producers to be among the most community-minded people I’ve ever worked with. They believe in giving back and in supporting those around them.”