Beef groups team up to feed health care workers

Three North Dakota beef groups provided a free meal to Bismarck, N.D., area health care professionals on Sept. 11.

North Dakota Stockmen's Association Executive Vice President Julie Ellingson delivers meals to the vehicle of a health care worker on Sept. 11, 2020, in Bismarck, N.D. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

BISMARCK, N.D. — Manned largely by people hidden under cowboy hats and masks, a Bismarck Events Center parking lot on Friday, Sept. 11, became a make-shift to-go restaurant. But the masked men and women working feverishly to prepare and package meals were not trying to conceal their identities, super-hero style. They were serving some real-life super heroes: health care workers.

The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, North Dakota Beef Commission and North Dakota Cattlewomen worked together on the event, for which 1,300 health care professionals had preregistered. North Dakota State University Barbecue Bootcamp prepared the meals, and volunteers with the three organizations put them together.

Volunteers with North Dakota beef groups package meals for healthcare workers on Sept. 11, 2020, in Bismarck, N.D. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

“It’s our way as beef producers and ranchers to show our appreciation and respect for those in the health services and the EMS worlds, and we’re glad we’re able to sponsor this for them,” said North Dakota Stockmen’s Association President Dan Rorvig.

Most cars were coming through what Rorvig called the “drive-thru window.” They’d drive up next to a large white tent, and volunteers with the organizations would bring meals to the vehicles. Shortly after the 11 a.m. start time, hundreds of meals had been loaded into cars, buses, vans and pickups that drove off to Bismarck-area health care facilities.


Later, Rorvig said, a number of health care workers would join the volunteers in the tent.

North Dakota Beef Commission Chairman Weston Dvorak registers healthcare professionals to receive meals during a Sept. 11, 2020, event put on by North Dakota beef groups. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

The Sept. 11 event was a replacement for a Military Appreciation event the beef organizations typically hold at the North Dakota State Fair. The cancellation of the fair left the groups “high and dry,” said Weston Dvorak, chairman of the North Dakota Beef Commission. So, they regrouped and decided to focus on the health care providers who have been taking care of their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

North Dakota State University BBQ Boot Camp prepared the food for meals for healthcare professionals on Sept. 11, 2020, and volunteers from North Dakota beef groups packaged and served the food. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

The North Dakota Beef Commission is the organization that takes care of the checkoff dollars assessed to North Dakota beef producers on the sale of cattle. The commission is entrusted with using checkoff dollars for things like promotion and education, which Dvorak said was a good fit with the meal for health care workers. The event promoted the role beef can play in a healthy diet, a message that Dvorak said was especially important for people like dietitians, doctors and nurses who may be making dietary recommendations to patients.

Volunteers with North Dakota beef groups package meals for healthcare professionals during a Sept. 11, 2020, event in Bismarck, N.D. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

Besides that, Dvorak said the event provided a way for beef producers to give back.

“We value those who are willing to step up and serve on the front lines, whether it’s overseas or whether it’s here at home,” he said.

Jenny Schlecht is the director of ag content for Agweek and serves as editor of Agweek, Sugarbeet Grower and BeanGrower. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at or 701-595-0425.
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