Premium beef from a prize 4-H steer will be feeding hungry families and homeless people in western Massachusetts for the next few months.
The shelves at the largest emergency food pantry in western Massachusetts are typically stocked with canned foods, dry cereals, and rice. From time-to-time, the refrigerator contains cheese or eggs.
It is rare to have a donation like the frozen ground beef that arrived Monday morning at the Open Pantry Community Services in Springfield, according to program director Annie Rennix.
"Getting frozen meat is really going to benefit the families, because it is not something we are regularly able to disseminate to the individuals that we see," said Rennix.
The Eastern States Exposition donated 700 pounds of premium meat; half to Open Pantry and half to the Friends of the Homeless shelter in Springfield.
ESE President Gene Cassidy bid on and purchased a steer at the 4-H auction at last fall’s Big E to make the donation.
He said it not only helps feed the hungry, but highlights the importance of local agriculture.
Roughly 140 families a day from throughout the region come to Open Pantry, according to Rennix. She said the pantry’s share of the donated beef should last about a month.
"It will definately go quickly," she said.
Friends of the Homeless serves three meals a day to about 200 people on average, according to Development Director Sarah Tanner.
"We don't typically get donations like this," said Tanner, adding, "It is a Godsend."
She said the chefs at the agency’s kitchen estimate they’ll be able to prepare meals with the donated beef for the next three months.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno came to the Open Pantry Monday to thank Cassidy and the ESE’s board for “their extreme generosity.”
According to the Big E, the source of the beef was a 1,130-pound crossbred steer raised by Brittani Burke of Connecticut. She purchased the animal as a calf and spent a year growing it to participate in the four-day 4-H Beef Program at the fair.
The beef was processed at a plant in Rhode Island.