VAUGHN — The agency Feeding America reports that 1-in-10 Montanans struggle with hunger and can't afford to put food on the table.
The Montana Cattlemen's Association (MCA) took hunger into their own hands more than 10 years ago - making sure to fill up stomachs and plates across the state with their foundation "Beef on Every Plate" - a program where cattlemen, meat processors, and food banks team up to provide beef to those in need.
"The problem with people not having enough to eat in the state of Montana has been growing and growing over the years. With hunger a major problem in Montana, donated cattle offer a solution," MCA treasurer Jan McDonald explained.
"In 2007, 2008, we started the program Beef on Every Plate. Through the foundation, people donate beef to the foundation. We in turn have it processed into one-pound hamburger packages and give it to food banks all over the state," McDonald added.
But statewide distribution is only possible when the MCA has the donors and processors necessary to do so. "The processors are so backlogged right now that we're having a lot of problems trying to get the product processed," McDonald said.
Additionally, cattle donors are in short supply, "I just put out a 1,300 unit mailing to invite people to donate," McDonald told MTN News.
But with few donors and limited meat processors, The MCA Foundation is worried there won't be beef on every plate. While cattle and processors are limited, funds for the foundation are not. "This year we applied for a food pantry grant, and they gave us a grant for $50,000 to help us supply beef to food banks," McDonald said.
They simply need the product and facility to use those funds. "We have to wait for people to donate and then we have to find a processor because we can't really locate a processor until we have the donation because we don't know where it's being donated. It could be anywhere in the state of Montana," McDonald said.
McDonald contacted the Great Falls Community Food Bank to ask if they'd like to receive beef through the program and received a positive response.
"We're really excited about this program because we don't get a whole lot of meat donated," food bank director Shaun Tatarka said. "We get some during hunting season but we don't get a lot, so this could really be awesome for us."
"As long as it's processed by a processor that's been inspected by the USDA or the State of Montana -- we'll take anything that's been commercially processed," he added.
With food banks and MCA officials eager to put beef on every plate, it's up to cattlemen and meat processors to step up to it. "There's a lot of people out there that need help! And if we have the ability to do it, we need to do it," McDonald told MTN News.
Anyone who would like to donate to the MCA Foundation, or get information on available meat processors, can contact the MCA here.