Helping Others

Students’ county fair pig ends up as food bank donation

Greg Moore, K-9 Argo and Hector Villarreal (left to right) of the Elk Grove Police Department K-9 unit deliver 120 pounds of pork to Elk Grove Food Bank Services on Tuesday, June 28, 2016. The pork will go to senior citizens who rely on the food bank for regular food deliveries.
Greg Moore, K-9 Argo and Hector Villarreal (left to right) of the Elk Grove Police Department K-9 unit deliver 120 pounds of pork to Elk Grove Food Bank Services on Tuesday, June 28, 2016. The pork will go to senior citizens who rely on the food bank for regular food deliveries.

After buying a pig raised by high school students at the Sacramento County Fair, the Elk Grove Police K-9 Association donated more than 120 pounds of meat this week to Elk Grove Food Bank Services.

Six K-9 association officers and their dogs arrived Tuesday at the food bank with several boxes of pork cut from a pig purchased at the fair’s junior livestock auction in late May. This is the second consecutive year that K-9 officers have purchased swine to donate to the food bank.

Both this year and last, the association bought pigs that were raised by students in Elk Grove High School’s FFA program, formerly known as Future Farmers of America.

Elk Grove Food Bank Services Executive Director Marie Jachino said this year’s donation was a pleasant surprise.

“This is the second year in a row that they’ve done this for us,” Jachino said. “But when they drove up yesterday I was a little surprised, because we really weren’t sure that they’d be doing it for us again this year. We were very happy. They even remembered that we needed the meat to be cut into small portions because we give it to our medically fragile clients and our seniors.”

Officer Greg Moore, who helped coordinate the donation, described the look of “genuine surprise” on the food bank workers’ faces when the officers arrived with boxes of pork. A pork donation is fairly unique, Moore noted, since food banks typically receive canned goods.

“We knew they’d be grateful; they were so gracious last year, and we were just hoping they’d have the freezer space for it, and they did,” said Moore.

Jachino said the pork will be distributed to senior citizens through the food bank’s Senior Brown Bag program, which delivers monthly bags of groceries to low-income seniors in the community.

Senior participants in the program get to pick which groceries they want, Jachino said, and typically there’s fresh produce, nutritional supplements and low-sodium and sugar-free products to choose from. She added that while the food bank usually has meat to offer the seniors as well, it’s primarily chicken. Seniors last year were delighted by the pork, Jachino said, especially when they were told that the Elk Grove Police K-9 Association donated it.

Seniors are the largest growing population in Elk Grove, Jachino said, with a 280 percent increase in seniors over the last five years.

“All of our seniors who we serve have pretty low incomes, and by the time they get through paying their rent and utilities and medication, there’s not a lot left over for food,” Jachino said. “So having the fresh pork, the meat, is a real addition to their monthly groceries that they get from the food bank.”

Elk Grove High School agriculture teacher and FFA adviser Mike Albiani said that because students in Elk Grove FFA raised and auctioned off 175 animals this year, it’s difficult to track where all of the animals end up. Albiani said specifically that 115 pigs were auctioned off.

Elk Grove FFA students are not only expected to handle their own animals, but to take care of each other’s animals, as they are mostly housed in the same barn. Afterward, they’re expected to market these animals by sending out letters to businesses in the community and showing the animals at the county fair. Animals are then purchased through the junior livestock auction.

Albiani said he was aware that in the last two years, the K-9 association has chosen pigs raised by Elk Grove FFA to purchase in the sale. However, he said, Elk Grove FFA mostly lost track of the animals once they were auctioned off, and did not realize that the pork would be going to the food bank.

“I think it’s absolutely fantastic that that was the outcome,” said Albiani. “The student got the experience of raising the animal and the experience of marketing that animal, and then the end result went to two good causes: one group giving to another group, which is absolutely fantastic.”

He added that other groups purchase livestock to donate to good causes, such as the Methodist Hospital Foundation, which buys a steer from Elk Grove FFA every year to donate to the Sisters of Mercy.

Moore said the tradition of buying from Elk Grove FFA stemmed from the K-9 association’s desire to support local youths, as well as do something to honor the fact that Elk Grove is a historically agricultural community.

“We were looking at a way to give back to our community in a way that supports our local kids, but pays homage to the rural and agricultural roots that this city had when it first started,” Moore said.

Jachino said the K-9 association officers must have “taken notes” after donating last year, since they remembered exactly how to have the meat prepared before bringing it to the food bank.

She estimated that the donated pork will feed roughly 150 to 175 people.

“I really give them a lot of credit for coming back this year and wanting to do it again, because they knew the food last year went to home deliveries for the seniors and the fragile,” Jachino said. “For them to come back and do this a second year is pretty amazing.”

Tyler Foggatt: 916-321-1145, @tylerfoggatt