Organization works with Japanese companies to meet 'huge need'
By TIM HEARDEN
U.S. meat producers continue to provide food aid to people displaced by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in early March.
Groups ranging from several hundred to more than 10,000 were served American beef and pork in recent weeks through a relief effort led by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
The organization, which promotes American meat products overseas, is working with Japanese retail and food companies to provide meals such as U.S. beef and pork served over rice, pork sausage and cooked peppered beef, according to a news release.
The USMEF partnered with Japanese food industry giant Ito Ham to serve some 20,000 meals to displaced residents in the heavily damaged Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima regions in late May, the release stated.
"The response we're getting is that the aid American producers are funding over there has been much appreciated," USMEF spokesman Jim Herlihy said.
"It's a huge need," he said. "There's still a lot of people who are displaced, and it looks like they're going to be displaced for an extended period of time. There's certainly been a strong outpouring of support from U.S. industries and producers."
The USMEF has so far raised $540,000 for the effort, including $35,000 recently from the Nebraska Beef Council. The organization takes cash donations in the U.S. and then works with Japanese companies to distribute American meat that's already been shipped overseas, Herlihy said.
In addition to Ito Ham, the restaurant chain Skylark has served about 1,200 meals a day in the Miyagi region, meat processor Hannan Foods Group and USMEF fed about 200 senior citizens in tsunami-damaged Ishinomaki City, and food service company Yoshinoya helped provide meals to coastal evacuees in the city of Tome.
"We're doing all we can and we know a lot of domestic organizations are helping," Herlihy said. "It's not a short-term assignment. It's something that will need to be addressed for some time to come.
"The response we've gotten from the people we've served has been overwhelming because they've been very grateful for the fact that American producers haven't forgotten them," he said.
U.S. Meat Export Federation: www.usmef.org
To to donate to the effort, e-mail Jim Herlihy at email@example.com