Ranchers donate to aid hungry

Capital Press file Using the state's successful Beef Counts program as a template, the Idaho Foodbank is asking other agricultural commodities to help fight hunger in the Gem State.

Effort puts meat on the table of poor people, backers say

By CAROL RYAN DUMAS

Capital Press

Idaho's cattlemen and beef industry are spreading the Christmas cheer with beef donations to The Idaho Foodbank through their Beef Counts program.

Cattle industry volunteers were on hand at the Vineyard Boise's regular food distribution on Dec. 14, giving away more than 120 beef roasts at just that one location.

"We were extremely pleased with the event," said Traci

O'Donnell, executive director of the Idaho Beef Council.

The industry's efforts to help feed Idaho's hungry, providing the food bank hard-to-source protein, goes much further. Industry officials also presented a check to the group that represented the $61,200 the industry has donated -- 99,528 servings of beef -- in 2011. Since 2010, with matching funds from Agri Beef Co., Beef Counts has provided more than 157,000 servings -- representing more than $144,000 -- of beef to hungry residents.

Beef Counts is a first-in-the-nation partnership of ranchers, Idaho Foodbank and Agri Beef Co. Donations of beef animals and cash are matched at 50 percent by Agri Beef Co.

The program is now being replicated in Washington state.

"What the industry has done is give us a local, sustainable, predictable supply of beef that we can provide to our network across the state," said Karen Vauk, Foodbank president and CEO.

"Having that protein available makes a huge difference to people who are food insecure. The quality is unparalleled, and it is such a joy to see the expressions on people's faces when they get this beef," she said.

All families deserve healthy, wholesome meals, but in these difficult economic times that's not feasible for everyone, O'Donnell said.

"Idaho's beef industry is proud in the role we play in putting beef on America's dinner table. And, when we heard the alarming statistics concerning the hunger issue in Idaho, we wanted to help out and make a difference. With the Beef Counts, we are doing that," she said.

"Producers choose to participate in the program because they feel like it is the right thing to do," said Wyatt Prescott, Idaho Cattle Association executive vice president.

ICA agrees and believes the program offers a good opportunity for the beef industry to communicate to the public all the great things cattlemen do, he said.

"And in tough times, we have our neighbors' backs," he added.

"The Idaho beef industry is so generous and has been so easy to work with from the very beginning. Everybody is very happy to be involved," Vauk said.

The industry also launched a new campaign this year to up its donations. Make Beef Count, a collaborative online campaign, encouraged people to virtually donate a serving of beef to The Idaho Foodbank. It drew more than 2,300 supporters, and 2,300 servings of beef, during the three-week drive between Nov. 14 and Dec. 9.

The Idaho Foodbank provides food to the more than 100,000 people who depend on free emergency food each month.

Online

Beef Counts: www.beefcounts.org

Beef Counts: www.beefcounts.org

The Idaho Foodbank: www.idahofoodbank.org

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