North Dakota’s healthcare professionals – doctors, nurses, nurses’ assistants and medical techs – are on the frontlines fighting COVID-19 everyday during this pandemic.

At the same time, North Dakota’s ranchers are being called upon to meet extreme food shortages in light of the pandemic, providing beef, with its high nutrition, to the public.

But grateful ranchers decided they wanted to show their appreciation to healthcare workers for all they do to support the community with high quality healthcare.

“The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association (NDSA) and the North Dakota Beef Commission (NDBC) held the first-ever North Dakota Beef Industry Healthcare Heroes Appreciation Day on Sept. 11,” said Julie Ellingson, NDSA executive vice president. “Ranchers wanted to say ‘thank you’ to our healthcare professionals who are our partners in keeping our community healthy, not only through the pandemic, but every day.”

The two ranchers’ organizations got together and held a roast beef luncheon for the healthcare workers.

Following COVID-19 guidelines, healthcare workers could drive by and receive a boxed beef lunch, one nurse could pick up boxes for several workers on their team, or there were seats available at a safe distance for those who wanted to eat at the parking lot venue.

“It was a wonderful event. We served 1,100 meals with the help of a catering crew from NDSU called Carnivore Catering,” Ellingson said. “It was a real pleasure to serve the healthcare workers and a unique opportunity for us.”

The lunch consisted of slow-roasted beef, barbecue baked beans, fruit, buns, cookies and drinks.

Around 40 ranchers were there to help prepare the boxes, alongside the catering crew. Ranchers helped serve and carry bags of boxes to the cars so healthcare workers stayed safe.

Complimentary tickets were given to healthcare workers so the ranchers’ organizations could stagger the times healthcare workers came by and ensure the safe flow of food to all.

How did the idea come about?

“Individual ranchers talked about doing a luncheon for healthcare workers as a way to thank them, and they brought their suggestions to their particular organization. The Beef Commission and NDSA then collaborated together,” she said.

Ellingson said they notified the statewide medical trade organization about the luncheon and the organization let nurses and other healthcare workers know about it.

“Our ranchers and healthcare workers are similar in that they are both committed to the health of our citizens. Ranchers provide beef for the well-being of citizens, a highly nutritious food, and healthcare workers provide health care,” she said.

They were both named essential workers at the start of the pandemic, meaning they were expected to work for the health of the nation unless they became sick.

“The Healthcare Heroes Appreciation Day lunches helped share beef’s positive nutrition story,” Ellingson said. “Beef has 10 essential nutrients that can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. There are nearly 30 popular cuts that meet the government’s definition of lean.”

In addition to the Healthcare Heroes Appreciation Day, the NDSA Foundation and member ranchers provided North Dakota beef for food kitchens, helping people in times of need and feeding them needed protein.

“I’m really proud of our ranchers’ community fostering spirit and continual willingness to reach out and help others,” Ellingson said.

North Dakota ranchers have had challenging times with COVID-19 themselves, with the stopping of beef contracts due to the problems at processing facilities, and continued low prices.

There have been some unique opportunities, as well, with some ranchers being able to sell their beef direct to consumers.

NDSA plans to talk about direct marketing and more at their in-person 91st NDSA Convention in Bismarck on Oct. 8-10.

For more on NDSA, see http://www.ndstockmen.org.