To help with processing and supply issues brought by COVID-19, the Minnesota Pork Board and the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences have joined forces to donate ground pork for families in need.

Nearly 12,300 pounds of ground pork has been donated to Second Harvest Heartland, who will distribute it to various food shelves and other meal program partners.

"No one should be asked to fight this virus hungry," said Allison O'Toole, CEO of Second Harvest Heartland. "We're incredibly grateful for this partnership with the Minnesota Pork Board and the University of Minnesota, as it allows us to continually distribute nutritious, fresh protein at a time when hunger is at an all-time high."

The donation was made possible by Minnesota pig farmers, the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences's Andrew Boss Laboratory of Meat Science, and Second Harvest Heartland Farm to Food Shelf grant funds. The lab opened its doors to continue processing operations to help families in need after disruptions started to take place in many meat packing facilities.

"The need for food assistance in our communities is more urgent than ever," said Brian Buhr, dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. "We are thankful for this significant donation of pigs from Minnesota producers, and appreciate the opportunity to process this much-needed protein into ground pork for people in need."

The partnership is expected to continue throughout the summer.

SDSU/Pork Producers Council donations

Similar donation efforts have happened in South Dakota, where the Pork Producers Council has teamed up with the meat lab of South Dakota State University.

SDSU's meat lab is harvesting animals and providing state-inspected pork sides for further processing to help support producers struggling with nationwide plant shutdowns.

"We can't do anywhere near the numbers that are close to what the big commercial operators do, but we're trying our best to make an impact," said John Killefer, dean of the SDSU College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences.

Processors are purchasing pigs from producers and picking up the slaughter costs. With help from the Pork Producers Council, those producers are in turn donating the product to feed families in need.

The first giveaway of 13,000 pounds of pork took place on May 22, and the second is scheduled for June 30.