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Food Bank’s Innovative USDA Room Provides Protein to Clients Across Oklahoma

Tyson Protein Innovation Fund and Community Collaboration Vital to Fighting Hunger

(Oklahoma City) – Feb. 8, 2017 – The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s Protein Initiative is committed to increasing access to much-needed protein for clients across central and western Oklahoma through its USDA room and Beef for Backpacks.  Thanks to the Tyson Protein Innovation Fund through Feeding America, $50,000 was awarded to the nonprofit to increase the amount of protein available to fight hunger.  Out of the more than 200 food banks in Feeding America’s national network, the Regional Food Bank is the first food bank in the country with an on-site facility capable of handling large quantities of donated USDA meat products.  It is also the only food bank with a Beef for Backpacks program.

“Protein is the number one request from clients and partner agencies and is one of the most challenging food items to secure,” said Steve Kullberg, vice president of operations at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.  “Thanks to the Tyson Protein Innovation Fund and many community partners, we are able to increase the pounds of protein distributed to our clients and partner agencies by 33.6 percent compared to the same time last year.”

The USDA room gives food processors the opportunity to donate useable food that is currently going to waste – capturing an entirely new source of protein. Since the USDA room opened in July, more than 137,000 pounds of new protein products have been packed and distributed to fight hunger, surpassing the nonprofit’s original projection of repacking 10,000 pounds of protein a month. The product has provided the equivalent of 114,166 meals for Oklahomans struggling with hunger.

As part of providing excellent service to clients, the Regional Food Bank established a Food Safety Team to make food safety, and the health of clients, a priority.  As part of this initiative, the Regional Food Bank partnered with the Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center, Victor Gramillo, Fresh Creative Foods, Dr. Kinsey Naylor, USDA, Tressa Madden, Food Bank Board chair, Vanguard Sciences, and Ray Haefele, retired Tyson Foods executive.

“By establishing a Food Safety and Inspection Service meat inspected area, the Regional Food Bank is demonstrating that food safety is a priority,” said Jason Young, quality control and management specialist at the Robert M. Kerr Food & Ag Products Center.  “They have implemented food safety programs in their entire establishment to consistently reduce potential food safety risks.”

Volunteers also play an important role and are needed to help repackage meat donations in the USDA room on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  These volunteers will go through a special food safety orientation. To volunteer visit www.regionalfoodbank.org/volunteer.

The Beef for Backpacks and Pork for Packs program are also a part of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s Protein Initiative that helps fight childhood hunger across the state.  This program creates collaborative relationships with local farmers, manufacturers and processors to provide more than 400,000 protein sticks for the nonprofit’s Food for Kids Backpack Program.  Through the Tyson Protein Innovation Fund, the nonprofit hopes to increase the number of protein sticks to more than 700,000 each year.

Through the Backpack Program, children receive a backpack full of kid-friendly, non-perishable and nutritious food on Friday to sustain them over weekends and school holidays.  Last school year, more than 18,500 students in 514 schools participated in the Backpack Program. 

“One in four children may go to bed tonight hungry,” said Kullberg.  “By working together, we are providing chronically hungry children in the state with an important Oklahoma-grown protein source.”

Beef for Backpacks and Pork for Packs accept cattle, hogs and monetary donations. All processing, packaging and delivery costs are covered by the Regional Food Bank, the Community Food Bank, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the Oklahoma Pork Council and the Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation.  These programs are possible thanks to a collaboration among the Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Beef Council, Oklahoma State University Food and Agricultural Products Center, the Oklahoma Pork Council, Ralph’s Meat Company in Perkins and Chickasha Meats.

Through the Oklahoma FFA Association Hunger Challenge, FFA Chapters throughout the state are also stepping up to fight childhood hunger.  Chapters are encouraged to donate at least one animal to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma’s Pork for Packs or Beef for Backpacks Program this school year. Last school year alone, Oklahoma FFA chapters donated 515 animals and $9,737, which produced 771,562 protein sticks. 

Through the Cents Make Sense program, chapters added 25 cents to the prices during their meat sales fundraisers to donate to the Oklahoma Food Banks. Thanks to the Oklahoma Beef Council, those funds were then matched dollar-for-dollar, making an even larger impact. However, donations are still needed to fight childhood hunger for this school year. 

Livestock donations are tax deductible as a charitable donation to a 501(C) 3 corporation, pursuant to IRS guidelines. Livestock donation receipt amounts are based on the USDA daily market price. A Livestock Owner/Donor Certificate must be completed in order to receive a donation receipt.  For more information on how to donate, contact Thad Doye by phone at 405-523-2307 or by email at thad.doye@okfb.org.

Together, we can solve hunger. To learn more about the Regional Food Bank, or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit regionalfoodbank.org or call 405-972-1111.

About the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is the state’s largest private, domestic hunger-relief organization and a member of Feeding America’s network of Food Banks.  The nonprofit provides enough food to feed more than 126,000 hungry Oklahomans each week through a network of more than 1,300 schools and charitable feeding programs in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. Since its inception in 1980, the Regional Food Bank has distributed more than 587 million pounds of food to feed Oklahoma’s hungry.  For more information, visit http://www.regionalfoodbank.org; find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/regionalfoodbank or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/rfbo.

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