Operation Round Up: Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry Provides Protein for Indiana Communities
Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry serves Indiana by providing necessary meat to families in need. With a Kosciusko REMC Operation Round Up grant, they accomplished another year of receiving donations, getting the meat processed, and making sure hungry homes had the resources they need for healthy living.
Debra Treesh, the executive director at Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry, joined us to talk about the influence they’re having in Kosciusko County and beyond.
KREMC Interviewer: How are you providing hunger relief for those in need throughout Kosciusko County?
Debra Treesh: What we do is different from a lot of hunger relief agencies because we provide meat only. Hunters donate deer, and farmers donate livestock, like cows that aren’t milking anymore or pigs with broken legs - ones that they can’t sell at the market. We process the meat and give it to local food banks and food pantries. The grant went to paying the processing fees to the meat processors. I would say Kosciusko County’s biggest meat processor is Integrity Meats.
KREMC Interviewer: Tell me more about how Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry got started and expanded to the whole state.
DT: We started the program in DeKalb County with one meat processor and 250 pounds of meat. Then, Community Harvest Food Bank in Northeast Indiana wanted us to get involved in more counties, and a few other food banks were interested, so we went statewide. Last year, we processed 301,000 pounds of meat.
We have about 500 agencies across the state that work with us. So, in your county, if I get some meat, I can look up my agencies in Kosciusko County and tell them to pick up the meat at the meat processor. Then they distribute it.
In the future, we hope we’ll get more and more meat, and more people will understand what we do. We’re thinking about adding produce at some point.
KREMC Interviewer: How are you involved in the community, and what can the communities in Indiana do to help your organization thrive?
DT: A lot of people don’t know we exist. We contact the meat processors, the processors give the meat to the agencies, and the agencies give it to the public. So, it came from us, but it looks like it came from the food pantries. We want to build awareness of what we do. Let farmers know that if they have a cow or a pig that isn’t producing well or isn’t going to make much at the market, they can donate it, write it off on their taxes, and provide a lot of food for a lot of people in need. Deer hunters, go out and get one more! Feed your family first, then afterward, get another deer to donate.
We always need financial assistance. Meat is one of the hardest and most expensive commodities for food banks and food pantries to get. It’s so important. It’s important medically - for people with diabetes and health issues, they need meat, not carbs. If you go to the grocery store, you can buy junk foods for cheap, but the produce and meat section is expensive. That’s why we help. We want people to get meat on their tables and still be able to pay their bills.
KREMC Interviewer: What’s the most common meat, and what kind of meat has the most health benefits?
DT: The most common meat is pork because it’s the cheapest right now. It changes daily. During COVID, pork was so cheap they were giving pigs away. With deer, it just depends on the year. We’re working with DNR and the governor’s wife right now to get more promotion on deer processing.
Venison provides the most health benefits because it has less fat and more protein. Then beef, then pork.
KREMC Interviewer: How does the community respond to the gifts of meat that you provide?
DT: They love it. Whenever I call the food pantries and food banks, they’re excited and say they need the meat so badly. We’ve had several get bigger freezers because they know they can get meat now. There are grants for them to get freezers, so it’s good for them, and it’s good for us because then we can help them out more.
I’m sure it has an impact on the families who receive it. It’s meat - they grab a one-pound package, and it’s $6. If they have several children, they need one pound every day all week. That’s $35 right away. It adds up really fast just for hamburger. They need their protein. You can get protein from beans and other things, but protein from meat is much better.
KREMC Interviewer: How is the mission at Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry like-minded to our community-driven purpose here at Kosciusko REMC?
DT: We’re helping the community. We’re strengthening it and making it a better, healthier community. When kids go to school, they should have healthy food in their stomachs so they can pay attention and learn, and that will help them all the way through to graduation. If you have a child who’s fidgeting because they don’t have food and they’re thinking about how hungry they are, they’re not paying attention in class. It’s going to help all the way through, from kids to the elderly. We all need protein.
Hopefully, we’re making people healthy, and working with KREMC allows us to help your community. Without your money, we can’t do it. If we don’t have funding, we can’t pay for processing, and if we can’t pay for processing, many families don’t get meat.
Learn more about Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry and how you can help out!
All photos provided by Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry.