Iowa Falls-based Iowa Select Farms wrapped up its Operation Christmas Meal program this week, having passed out 17,000 free pork loins to needy Iowans during a dozen events across the state.

Jen Sorensen, at Iowa Select, says there were long lines of cars and trucks at every stop as the pandemic has made this such a difficult year for so many Iowans who’ve lost their jobs or lost income. “You think about schools not being in session and children, that’s their chance to get a lunch and sometimes a breakfast, too,” Sorensen says. “This is when you start to see hunger levels really spike.”

When the times get tougher, she says, it gets harder for Iowa families to make ends meet. “Oftentimes, when you don’t have enough money, it’s protein and produce that get cut out of diets because they’re expensive,” Sorensen says. “Being able to give away a pork loin really helps fulfill that need.”

Iowa families that have never had to take items from a food pantry before are finding it difficult to cope financially this year, and those who’ve benefitted from this program make the meat stretch as far as possible. “We hear that back from families,” she says. “‘You gave us this pork loin and we were able to make it into two or three really great meals,’ and that’s what we really like to hear.”

This is the fourth year for the program which made stops this month in: Marshalltown, Hampton, Osage, Carroll, Storm Lake, Rockwell City, Mount Ayr, Osceola, Humeston, Webster City, Fort Dodge, and Iowa Falls.

(By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)