4-H members give back through livestock auctions

4-H members and buyers help address community need through livestock auctions at the county fair.

For many people the county fair is all about cotton candy, elephant ears, demolition derbies, carnival rides and concerts. For others, it is about showcasing their projects, making friends and having fun.  But, according to Michigan State University Extension, it is also an opportunity to help meet a need in the community!    

With local unemployment rates at 10.5 percent, long lines at the soup kitchens and high demands on the food banks, the Lenawee County 4-H Program is committed to giving back to a generous community that gives so much to them.  Each year more than 500 lots of livestock are sold at the Lenawee County Fair 4-H Livestock Auctions.  At the auctions, buyers and 4-H members have the opportunity to donate their purchased livestock to programs that provide food to supply local food banks like “Meating the Needs” and “Check Charity.”

The Jr. Livestock Auction partners with the South Central Michigan Food Banks in offering a program called Meating the Needs.  This program allows auction buyers an opportunity to purchase locally grown 4-H livestock projects and donate them to charity.  The South Central Michigan Food Bank then pays for the processing and donates the meat to local food banks.  Through the 4-H Jr. Livestock Auction, 23 large animals were donated resulting in over 6,000 pounds of locally grown beef, lamb and pork provided to consumers that could not afford to buy it. 

“Meat is something that isn’t donated very often,” said Food Bank Director of Operations Dave Karr. “This makes the Meating the Needs program so important for our agencies.  It is a readily available source of protein for the people who may otherwise not get it.” 

With a growing number of 4-H members enrolling in the small animal project area, the 4-H Small Animal Board was looking for a way to offer these buyers and 4-H members an opportunity to give back to the community.  Since the Meating the Needs program only deals with large animals (beef, lamb and pork), the 4-H members on the Small Animal Board developed a program modeled after Meating the Needs and called it, Check Charity. 

Buyers purchasing animals in the Small Animal Auction have two options for their purchase: 

  1. Process it for their own consumption
  2. Donate it to charity

Buyers recognized the need in the community with 65 percent of all poultry pens sold during the auction donated to charity. The 2013 4-H Small Animal Auction resulted in a total of 292 animals donated to the local food pantry.  In addition, goats that were purchased and donated to charity were sold through the local market, raising a total of $1,000. These funds were then utilized by the 4-H Small Animal Board youth members to purchase additional perishable and non-perishable items to be donated to food banks and the domestic violence shelter.

Captain Gordon Knight of The Salvation Army appreciates the donations as it allows his agency to provide a more nutritionally balanced food box to needy families, as well as to assist with community meals.  Twice a week, The Salvation Army offers a community meal to the underprivileged of Lenawee County.  The meals average 120 people in attendance.  The fresh, locally grown livestock allows for The Salvation Army to offer a meal that includes high-quality protein.    Thanks to the Check Charity donation, The Salvation Army can also offered poultry to families in their grocery box.  Thirty-five families each day benefit from grocery boxes The Salvation Army hands out. 

4-H’ers benefit from the generosity of businesses and individuals during their experiences, such as the animal auctions.  The Check Charity campaign and Meating the Needs are just a few small ways Lenawee County 4-H members are giving back to their community.  4-H’ers involvement in these service programs also raises their awareness of community issues and how they can make a difference in the lives of others, emphasizing the Heart and Hands of the four H’s.

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