Written by: Victoria Broehm | November 17, 2021
What can you make with a pound of beans? Being from the South, my first thought strays to a big pot of red beans and rice, complete with Cajun Andouille sausage and all the fixin’s. My mouth is watering thinking about how delicious my kitchen smells when I make them, but for some, a pound of beans is hard to come by.
Earlier this month, several American Feed Industry Association staff, myself included, spent an afternoon at the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), where we bagged 550 packages of beans and oatmeal for families in need in the Arlington, Va., area. It was the second time our staff has participated in this volunteer activity, and it was great to spend time together for a good cause.
AFAC reports that nearly 16,000 people in the Arlington area are food insecure and that number only continues to grow as the pandemic draws on with referrals up 45%. With rising food prices and ongoing supply chain issues, there have been reports in recent weeks of food banks cutting back on how much food they can deliver to their clients. The AP writes:
“Supply chain disruptions, lower inventory and labor shortages have all contributed to increased costs for charities on which tens of millions of people in the U.S. rely on for nutrition. Donated food is more expensive to move because transportation costs are up, and bottlenecks at factories and ports make it difficult to get goods of all kinds.”
Beyond some of the ongoing pandemic-induced challenges, as I pointed out in a blog post earlier this year, some food banks lack commercial refrigeration, making it difficult for them to provide fresh milk and dairy foods to their clients. (In fact, you can join the others in our industry working to change this!)
In the animal food industry, we know that feeding livestock, poultry and aquaculture ensures Americans have stocked grocery store shelves, but we cannot be sure that everyone who needs a meal gets one. Where there is more work to be done, I am so grateful to be part of an organization (and industry) that values giving back.
Just this year, our staff supported their local communities in myriad ways. Louise Calderwood volunteers with her local rescue organization in rural Vermont, performing basic ambulatory services when the need arises. Paul Davis participates in an agricultural literacy program in his Tennessee community, where he reads stories to elementary school students, so that they learn more about where their food comes from. Veronica Rovelli is an American Red Cross volunteer who supports the Services to the Armed Forces, which assists military personnel, veterans and their families before, during and after their deployments. And Erica Burson even found an unusual way to give back by selling Christmas trees for the Optimist Club at a lot near her house, which raises funds to support youth sports and scholarship programs. Beyond that, our staff regularly support their local communities by volunteering with their schools and churches and donating goods to those in need.
We also work to support communities where our conferences are located, such as organizing the first AFIA blood drive at AFIA’s Purchasing and Ingredient Suppliers Conference this past August, where we collected over a dozen units of blood, enough to potentially save 30 lives, which we donated to an Orlando, Fla., blood bank. And at the upcoming International Production & Processing Expo, we will once again be supporting Atlanta-area food banks.
In the grand scheme of things, it may not seem like these small things add up to much, but neither does a small bag of beans. At first glance, they are just a dense source of protein, but when other veggies and rice are added to them, they can become a complete meal for a family. With Thanksgiving around the corner, I would like to thank all of our members who are doing their ‘small’ parts to make a BIG difference for their communities.
Now, who is in the mood for some red beans and rice???