This Week’s Column: Farmers Feed Our Needs

This Easter, the Ohio Poultry Association (OPA) and Ohio’s egg farmers are helping feed hungry people, teaming up with the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks (OASHF) for the third year to donate more than one million eggs statewide.



Nine Ohio egg farmers again will donate more than 1.2 million eggs via the Second Harvest network of 12 foodbanks just in time for Easter. The contribution of 101,000 dozen eggs has an estimated retail value of more than $101,000.



Farmers have long fed their families and our society as a whole, but in recent years, these hard working producers have worked directly to feed folks who otherwise may not be able to feed themselves.



“Eggs are a critical item for our foodbanks because they are a protein-rich product, however, they are also one of the hardest sources to acquire,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks. “We commend Ohio’s egg farmers for once again stepping up to help their neighbors, especially at a time when hundreds of thousands of Ohioans, many for the first time, are seeking food assistance.”



Hamler-Fugitt explains that each week, more than 225,000 Ohioans receive emergency food assistance. Of those, 27 percent are 17 years old or younger.



“We place great value on the relationship with our consumers, and ensuring their trust requires us to help those who are less fortunate or who are struggling in this economy,” said Jim Chakeres, OPA executive vice president. “Ohio’s egg farmers are committed to supporting our local communities and that means helping out when needed, in addition to producing safe affordable food for Ohioans and caring for our flocks and the environment.” Chakeres said Ohio ranks second in the nation for egg production, and produces seven billion eggs each year with a value of more than $585 million.



The Ohio contribution complements a national initiative being conducted by the United Egg Producers and Feeding America that will provide more than 11 million eggs to foodbanks nationwide through a donation from America’s egg farmers located across the country.



Egg farmers aren’t the only ones getting involved in the effort to support local food banks. Last year, members of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation launched the “Farmers Feed Our Needs” campaign, fostering a partnership between farmers and foodbanks to deliver fresh food directly to foodbanks



One example was a massive gleaning project in Sandusky County. Facing a loss of market and a killing frost, farmer Daryl Knipp faced the possibility of 150,000 of cabbage going to waste. Working with the hundreds of Farm Bureau volunteers, the cabbage instead fed hundreds of hungry Ohioans. “Farmers care about other people, not just about their pocketbook,” Knipp said.



Sixteen acres of cabbage produced 120 bins of cabbage. 112 of the bins, which would have retailed for over $85,904, went to Second Harvest to produce 121,875 meals. Eight bins were delivered to Toledo-area foodbanks, meaning more than $90,000 of cabbage fed the hungry, rather than getting plowed under.



Other gleaning projects took place throughout the year, furthering the total impact local farmers had on the hunger challenge.



Hamler-Fugitt said that OASHF has a long-standing partnership with Ohio’s agriculture industry through the Ohio Agricultural Clearance Program (OACP). OACP is a statewide effort to direct Ohio’s surplus of agricultural products through the network of foodbanks in the state to ensure that Ohio families have a source of nutritious, Ohio-grown and raised, and produced food products. The program works with Ohio farmers and commodity groups to provide foodbanks with surplus and unmarketable agricultural products at production cost. For example, in addition to the egg donation this Easter, Ohio egg farmers have worked through OACP to provide more than three million eggs since 2005.



Farmers are the backbone of our society, providing a safe and enjoyable food supply while preserving and protecting our natural resources.



Through their hard work and the combined efforts of groups like the Ohio Poultry Association and the Ohio Farm Bureau, farmers are doing more to feed our needs than ever before.