Oklahoma FFA members donated 347 animals between May 1, 2014, and April 1, 2015, to benefit the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.
Members of 172 FFA chapters donated the animals as part of the FFA Hunger Challenge presented by the state FFA officer team. The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma was able to make 506,996 protein sticks from the animals donated.
“The results on the April 1, 2015, deadline were a huge success by any measure. Oklahoma FFA chapters provided more than enough pork and beef protein sticks to supply every hungry child’s backpack for well over a year,” said Jack Staats, state FFA advisor and state agricultural education program administrator at the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma provides food for weekends and school holidays to 25,000 chronically hungry elementary school children in the state through the backpack programs. Each backpack contains a beef or pork protein stick every other week.
In one year, the food bank gives 370,000 protein sticks to children. Each pound of meat makes about eight protein sticks. A 280-pound live hog produces 182 pounds of meat, or 1,456 sticks. A 1,300-pound steer produces 806 pounds of meat, or 6,448 sticks.
“In past years we received a generous donation of 50 head of cattle for the Beef for Backpacks program,” said Lisa Perry, manager of regional giving for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. “Unfortunately, that donation was not possible this year.”
The money to process the pigs and calves came from selling donated lambs and goats at auction. FFA members donated 66 animals at the Tulsa State Fair in October and 213 animals at the Oklahoma Youth Expo in March. Thad Doye with Oklahoma Farm Bureau, a partner in the program, also traveled across Oklahoma to pick up animals when FFA chapters called.
“I put over 7,000 miles on my truck in the month of March alone,” Doye said.
Merritt FFA chapter in southwest Oklahoma donated 19 animals, the most from any chapter.
“Without the support of the Oklahoma FFA chapters we would not have been able to offer the Pork for Packs or Beef for Backpacks program this year to the children in Oklahoma struggling with hunger,” said Perry. “To be able to provide a local, healthy and consistent source of protein to these kids has been a godsend to the Oklahoma Food Banks.”
According to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, the protein sticks from each donated animal are given to children in the county of the donating FFA chapter.
“It comes down to local FFA members serving the needs of kids right in the communities in which we live,” said Garrett Reed, state FFA president. “That’s a wonderful thing.”