Hungry school children are benefiting from the generosity of the Oklahoma livestock show industry, as dozens of animals are being donated to the Food for Kids backpack program at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. The meat from the donated animals is processed into nutritional protein sticks and included in the backpack program courtesy of the Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Beef Council, Oklahoma Pork Council, Oklahoma State University Food and Agricultural Products Center, Ralph’s Meat Company in Perkins and Chickasha Meats.
“We are excited by the opportunity to provide a nutritious source of protein to the children,” said Monica Wilke, executive director of the Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation. “We estimate that between 20,000 and 25,000 beef sticks will be needed every month to supply all of the hungry children who currently benefit from the backpack program.”
Wilke said the project is a good example of the generosity and efficiency of Oklahoma livestock producers.
“I am constantly impressed by the generosity and overwhelming desire of our producers to help others,” Wilke said. “For every 100 pounds of beef donated, we’ll be able to produce 800 beef sticks to help feed Oklahoma children.”
The idea to donate livestock exhibited by Oklahoma youth originated with the Diamond Hats, a group of rural women dedicated to supporting the livestock industry. They established the Animal Donation Challenge in which the winning 4-H club or FFA chapter will receive several awards including a trophy presentation at the Oklahoma Youth Expo Sale of Champions on March 21, a $500 donation from Diamond Hats, interviews with media and lunch with Diamond Hats and industry representatives.
“The Diamond Hats are honored to host the Animal Donation Challenge in conjunction with the 2013 Oklahoma Youth Expo,” said Marilyn Harrel, Diamond Hats founding member. “Junior livestock exhibitors from across the state have already donated animals, and we expect many more throughout the ten-day run of the expo. Our partnership with the Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation has been ideal in raising awareness about hunger and supporting the Regional Food Bank’s efforts.”
More than 7,000 exhibitors will travel to Oklahoma City March 15-22 to participate in the Oklahoma Youth Expo, the world’s largest livestock show. The show’s executive director Tyler Norvell said the Animal Donation Challenge is an opportunity for Oklahoma Youth Expo participants to give back.
“No where will you find a more giving group of people who are willing to serve than those involved in the Oklahoma agricultural industry,” Norvell said. “The Oklahoma Youth Expo is proud to provide an avenue for livestock exhibitors and industry representatives to join the fight against hunger, specifically childhood hunger throughout the state.”