#3 Helping 34,400 Iowa Families
We do it because we care tremendously about helping people and believe what we are doing is making a difference in their lives,” said Jen Sorenson, Communications Director for Iowa Select Farms. “We’ve grown the Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation each year so we can keep expanding our programs to more Iowa families. Giving back is part of our culture here, you see this through the passion we all have for the Foundation work and also through the involvement so many of our employees and contractors have within their own communities.”
Founded in 2006 by Jeff and Deb Hansen, the Foundation works to provide hunger relief to struggling Iowa families, show gratitude to members of the Armed Services and strengthen efforts to find a cure for childhood cancer while improving the quality of life for impacted families.
“We try to focus first on the communities where we have nearby farms and our employees and contractors living, however most of our programs impact families all across the state of Iowa,” said Jen.
With Jeff and Deb Hansen as the largest donors each year, Iowa Select Farms employees also pull together a fundraiser each spring to help replenish money used for Foundation programs throughout the year. In 2016, donations from employees, contractors, suppliers and friends raised a record $1,125,000—funding that fuels efforts such as the Pork Care Packages, the Power Snack Program and pork loin donations to the rural food pantries.
In June the Foundation delivered 22 tons—9,700 pork loins—to over 90 rural food pantries. “Late spring is a time period when food pantries are oftentimes low,” said Jen. “The donations that traditionally come in during the holidays are depleted and kids are home from school. There are more meals to make and more mouths to feed, and more families are using the services provide by local food pantries, community shelves and churches.”
During the two-week delivery period, employees of Iowa Select Farm pick up the pork loins purchased from JBS, then wind their way along six different routes, targeting rural communities. “We get names of food pantries from our employees and contractors, sometimes they are tiny pantries in basement churches or a larger soup kitchens,” said Jen. “They are all important and doing great work to help families through a difficult time.”
In its third year, the PowerSnack Program (formerly Ham Sandwiches for Kids) provides each student enrolled in the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and Food Bank of Iowa’s Backpack Program four “Power Snack” packages contain coupons for a free pound of shaved ham paired with a free loaf of whole wheat bread.
“Lean protein is critical to not only physical development but also cognitive development in children, but unfortunately meat is one of the first things that has to go when a family is struggling,” said Jen. “When it’s time for families to go to the grocery store they can pick up two easy and nutritious ingredients—bread and ham—and get 12 filling, high protein snacks at one time.” In 2016, the Foundation funded 432,000 ham and whole wheat bread “PowerSnacks,” to 9,000 children in grades K-6.
To build on the $250,000 donation to help establish the Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Blank Children’s Hospital and the $250,000 donation to help establish Children’s Cancer Connection’s Hansen Home for Hope, in 2016 the Foundation planned several events for children and families utilizing those facilities. In cooperation with Children’s Cancer Connection, a “Back-to-School Bash” for 72 kids featured games, crafts, food and free school supplies. In December, a Christmas party came complete with crafts, games and special gifts for all of the children.
In December, 12,000 Iowa members of the Armed Services received a Pork Care Package containing $38 worth of coupons good for various pork products, including fresh pork, ham, ribs, bacon and ground pork.
“Our company and Foundation has a tremendous amount of respect for those who serve,” said Jen. “Supplying the resources for several home-cooked meals that helps bring families together is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to the men and women who sacrifice so much of their time away from their families protecting our freedom.”
Finally, continuing what has become an annual holiday tradition, the Foundation ended 2016 by coordinating Operation Christmas Meal, a unique event inviting families who do not have the means for a holiday meal to pick up a free pork loin roast at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. On the Friday before Christmas, over 60 employees handed out 4,000 pork loin roasts in an effort to bring families together for a nutritious holiday dinner.
“This is something we are not only humbled to be able to do, but very committed to doing,” said Jen. “The Foundation is a huge part of Iowa Select Farms and is fueled by our strong values towards helping people and making our communities stronger.”