Beef for Backpacks program needs donated cattle
Organizers of the Beef for Backpacks program are asking livestock producers to consider the benefits of donating cattle as they prepare their year-end statements.
The Beef for Backpacks program is a collaboration among the Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Beef Council, Oklahoma State University Food and Agricultural Products Center, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, Ralph's Meat Company in Perkins and Chickasha Meats.
Each week, volunteers at the Regional Food Bank stuff backpacks with nutritious food and snacks that are handed out to school children to supplement their weekend diets. Beef sticks supplied by program partners provide a valuable source of protein. The backpacks are an integral part of the Food for Kids program.
The Food for Kids program was started by the food bank in 2003 when they recognized the need to help supplement children's diets when the school lunch program was unavailable. The program provides chronically hungry children, identified by school personnel, with backpacks filled with non-perishable, kid-friendly food to eat on weekends and school holidays.
The program serves 475 elementary schools in 53 counties across central and western Oklahoma, providing backpacks to more than 13,500 chronically hungry children each week.
"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."
To help sustain the program, program partners are asking beef producers to consider a commitment of at least one animal per year.
"This kind of commitment will guarantee the programs continued success and be a win-win situation for both producers and the children," said Rodney Bivens, Executive Director of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.