Bill Luckey

Columbus Pig Farmer Bill Luckey unloads the first batch of pigs for the Pork Cares Campaign, donated by Niewohner Brothers of Albion.

In the midst of COVID calamity, Columbus pig farmer Bill Luckey had an idea: donating pigs to Nebraska food bank feeding programs.

As fate would have it, Dr. Benny Mote and Dr. Gary Sullivan with the University of Nebraska were discussing a similar idea. One serendipitous phone call later the wheels began to churn and suddenly “Pork Cares Campaign” was in motion.

The Nebraska Pork Producers Association (NPPA) and the University of Nebraska Department of Animal Science and Loeffel Meat Lab are behind the effort. They are helping to connect Nebraska Pork Producers with the food-insecure in Nebraska.

Directed by Meat Lab Manager Calvin Schrock, students, staff and faculty have stepped up to operate UNL’s meat lab where the pork is processed and packaged. The Food Bank of Lincoln will then distribute the donated pork throughout Nebraska during this time of markedly increased demand from food banks and food pantries.

“COVID-19 has rattled the entire food supply chain impacting everyone from farm to fork,” NPPA President John Csukker said. “The collaboration between NPPA and UNL is a unique opportunity to put pork on the tables of Nebraska’s food insecure while finding a home for pigs that might otherwise go to waste.”

“The Pork Cares Campaign is the epitome of the Nebraska spirit. Producers are trying to help those in need regardless of how much help they might need themselves,” added Dr. Benny Mote, UNL Swine Extension Specialist.

He noted that pork producers were faced with “unfathomable” decisions to euthanize hogs beucase packing plants were shut down or slowing operation due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Such a worthy project, however, is not without costs. While the pigs for Pork Cares Campaign are being donated by Nebraska pork producers there are transportation and processing costs. Pork Cares is seeking donations, which can be made through a link at www.nepork.org or sent to Nebraska Pork Producers Association, 4435 O Street, Suite 200, Lincoln, NE 68510.

“We are doing our best to make lemonade out of lemons. We’ll do our best to keep it going and see where it takes us,” Luckey said.