By KATHRYNE RUBRIGHT
Since 2014, the United Way of Hancock County’s Halt Hunger Initiative has provided more than six tons of meat to local food pantries, mostly by purchasing animals at the Hancock County Junior Fair livestock auction.
Food pantries are “always really low on protein, because that’s the most expensive piece,” said Judy Pusateri, assistant resource development director for the United Way. And it’s not what people usually think about donating, other than a turkey or ham around the holidays.
The pantry at Good Hope Lutheran Church in Arlington primarily gets food from the West Ohio Food Bank, said Kim Jordan, who handles those orders. Community donations tend to be canned goods.
“It’s a blessing when we get the meat,” Jordan said.
The Halt Hunger Initiative’s Livestock Fund was the idea of Mitch Welty, a grain manager with Legacy Farmers Cooperative. He was on the Halt Hunger board at the time, and thought it would be a good way for “kids to help kids,” Pusateri said.
The United Way mostly buys livestock at the September fair auction, but also makes occasional purchases from local farmers during the year.
The United Way buys at market value, though farmers will often give a discount or pay for processing of the meat. In one case, a whole steer was donated and the United Way only had to pay for processing.
As much as food pantries can use the meat donations, they “only have so much space at one time” in the freezer, Pusateri noted. That’s especially true of rural food pantries.
In the past year, the United Way started buying canned meat at Brinkman’s — wanting to spend the money locally — and has donated 336 28-ounce cans, or 588 pounds of meat.
The United Way has also donated a total of 11,750 pounds from livestock purchases.
Recipients include City Mission, Salvation Army, Hope House, Good Hope in Arlington, McComb Food Pantry, and a food pantry operated through the Mount Blanchard United Methodist Church.
The church pantry in Mount Blanchard doesn’t have the capacity to take frozen meat, so it has been helped by the recent expansion to canned meat.
“We keep learning as we go,” Pusateri said.
Those interested in donating to the Livestock Fund can do so by donating online at https://www.liveunitedhancockcounty.org/give or by sending a check to the United Way at 245 Stanford Parkway and noting that the money is for that fund.