Second Harvest

A Second Harvest Heartland driver delivers a load of onions, bananas and other produce to the Pierce County Food Pantry in Ellsworth, Wisconsin. Food ordered for the pantries comes at a discounted price compared to grocery store prices.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota pork industry representatives this week announced the donation of more than 8,000 pounds of ground pork to Second Harvest Heartland, one of the largest food banks in the state.

Food bank leadership said Thursday, Oct. 31, that the donation was the largest that they have received from the Minnesota Pork Board and Compeer Financial since partnering with the two in 2011. They estimate it will be enough to feed some 24,000 people.

Standing amid pallet racks in the food bank’s Maplewood warehouse on Oct. 31, CEO Allison O’Toole said the donation is part of a larger effort to distribute more lean protein to the 59-county region that Second Harvest serves.

“We know that many of our families are struggling to make ends meet, especially with the rising costs of living,” she said. “At the end of the month, the food budget is the first to be compromised.”

Even at a time when employment is reported to be on the rise, O’Toole said that many in Minnesota and western Wisconsin — throughout which the food bank distributes — struggle to afford lean meat on their own. Pork and turkey are some of the most highly demanded products among the region’s food pantries, according to Second Harvest food sourcing representative Kent Keckeisen.

With the move to a bigger warehouse in Brooklyn Park slated for six months from now, O’Toole said Second Harvest plans to double the amount of lean meat that it takes in and distributes over the next three years. Produces accounts for the majority of donations today, she said.

Among other things, O’Toole said the new warehouse will feature larger refrigerated work areas that will make it easier for meat to be repackaged for smaller agencies that lack the means to transport pallets.

Much of the pork donated to the food bank this month has already been distributed, Second Harvest officials said. Food bank spokesperson Tina Mortimer said on Oct. 29 that the donation is estimated to make for nearly 7,000 meals.

In September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that roughly 11% of households — more than 14 million experienced food insecurity at some point in 2018, meaning their access to enough food for all their members was strained by the lack of money or other resources.

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