More than a year in the making, the Meat the Need charity has been launched right when it’s needed most. Anne Lee talked to its founders to find out what’s behind the venture that helps get food from farm to the foodbank.
Farmers behind the newly launched Meat the Need charity are already working on how to add other farm produce to the supply chain and meet skyrocketing demand from foodbanks in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Siobhan O’Malley and Wayne Langford say they’re looking into how other donated produce such as dairy products, vegetables and fruit could also get to those accessing foodbanks and City Missions via the Meat the Need platform.
Having worked on the concept for more than a year the charity was due to be launched in coming months but skyrocketing need saw them fast track final details and launch in mid-April.
The concept of farmers joining together and donating an animal to help feed those in need first came to Wayne just over a year ago after a trip to a local foodbank to donate some of the farm meat he and his wife Tyler had just had processed.
“On day 546 (of posting on his YOLO Farmer platform) we took some meat into our local food bank and I was surprised to hear just how long they thought it would last them.
“I thought about that while I was milking the cows the next day and I thought wow, if we could get a few more farmers in our region donating a little, we could keep them supplied for the whole year.
“Then I did a few numbers in my head and thought if we got farmers all around New Zealand donating an animal, even if each farmer only did it every few years, we could make sure no one went hungry.”
Wayne and Siobhan met to talk about their project ideas not long after that and he shared his thoughts on helping address the food poverty issue.
“That idea went to the top of the list straight away,” Siobhan says.
“Like a lot of farming families, we’ve donated meat to our local foodbanks but if it’s on a random, ad hoc kind of basis, they could either have heaps of meat or none at all.”
Wayne says Siobhan quickly helped take the concept from an idea to a plan.
“She really got things moving,” he says.
Their research last year told them that then, before Covid-19, about 500,000 people in this country experienced food poverty every year.
It doesn’t mean that number of people access foodbanks every week but over a year, at some time 500,000 people didn’t have enough food.
“And we know 180,000 of them are children,” Wayne says.
They’re staggering numbers but what’s frightening is that in the wake of Covid-19 shutdowns demand at foodbanks and City Missions has tripled with some already reporting a 500% increase.
“They’re big numbers but again, when you think about the number of farms we have in New Zealand and the amount of produce that comes off them, meeting that need is very achievable if we donate a small amount when we can,” Wayne says.
Before Covid-19 it was estimated about 2000 animals were required to meet the need.
“We send 1.4 million dairy cows to meat processors every year alone so, even with the big increases in demand we’re seeing now, between dairy farmers, sheep, beef and deer farmers we can do this,” he says.
Siobhan says that as part of their research they talked to foodbanks about what they needed.
“They told us they need to manage the flow of product and that 500g packs of mince was the best form for meat to come in – it made it easier to manage and it was the most versatile for their clients.”
She says it was important to establish a board to help guide their strategy and bring in additional expertise.
Board members include NZX head of analytics and former KPMG analyst Julia Jones, Mid-Canterbury dairy farmer and chair of RuralCo Jessie Chan, Dairy Women’s Network regional leader, former dairy farm manager and Agri-Women’s Development Trust Next Level graduate Cheyenne Wilson and Tatua Co-operative Dairy company director Richard Luxton who holds a number of other directorships and has supply chain expertise.
DairyNZ, Beef+Lamb and Federated Farmers are also supporting the venture.
Siobhan says Silver Fern Farms though has been an integral player and is the lynch pin in the supply chain development, helping create a smooth farm-to-end-product delivery process. Silver Fern Farms’ head of communications and sustainability, Justin Courtney says Silver Fern Farms is proud of the part the company plays in producing food for NZ and the world and wanted to contribute to ensure Kiwis didn’t go hungry.
“When Meat the Need approached Silver Fern Farms in 2019 it was an easy decision to throw our resources behind this, especially in recent weeks as we have accelerated the planning and implementation in response to the increase in need that has been created by the global pandemic, Justin says.
On April 23 the first delivery of 5000 packs of meat, processed and donated by Silver Fern Farms, was delivered to the Christchurch City Mission with supply of product expected to be expanded to other regions as more farmers donate stock.
Farmers can go to the website Meattheneed.org to donate either an animal, which is processed through Silver Fern farms or, if they’re having their stock processed elsewhere, can donate a virtual animal by transferring the value of that animal to the charity.
Farmers can also get in touch with their local Silver Fern Farms Livestock Rep to book a donation directly.
Straight financial donations are also possible via the website.
The value of donated animals processed by Silver Fern Farms, virtual animal donations and monetary donations are transferred to the charity’s “meat bank account” by Silver Fern Farms.
That value is then converted by Silver Fern Farms to the 500g packs of Meat the Need branded mince which is sent to foodbanks and organisations that feed the hungry as they order them.
“New Zealand farmers feeding New Zealand families,” is the catch phrase that appears on the mince labels.
From our whanau to yours.
“And that’s what this is – it’s genuinely a way for us as producers of food to help feed people in our own country,” Siobhan says.
“Farmers have always gone about quietly donating. It doesn’t sit well in a country where we export most of what we produce that people here should be hungry – this platform is a way we can co-ordinate and combine our efforts,” Wayne says.
They’ve been inundated with messages and support from farmers in particular but have also received support from the wider public too.
“There’s such a need out there at the moment – what we want, is to make this part of a regular way farmers can give when they can,” Siobhan says.
How it works
If you have an animal to donate – cattle, sheep or deer:
- Go to the website Meattheneed.org and click on Donate Animal. Fill out forms and your local Silver Fern Farms Livestock Rep will be in touch to book the donation.
- Animal is processed by Silver Fern Farms, and the donated value of the animal is deducted from the total remittance. The donated animal will be noted on the kill sheet. Meat the Need will issue a receipt to the farmer for the value of the donation.
- Silver Fern Farms transfers the value of the donation directly to Meat the Need, who hold all donated funds in a “meat bank account”.
- When a foodbank requires meat it is sent 500g packs of export quality mince and their value is deducted from the charity’s “meat bank account”.
- If animals are processed elsewhere, a farmer can still donate the value of an animal by clicking on Donate Now and selecting one of five options – a virtual sheep, $100; a virtual cow, $700 or an option to set your own value for a donation. You can also donate a box of love (to help running costs), $25 or a box of meat, $50. The general public can donate in the same way.
- Organisations involved in helping feed those in need can access the Meat the Need service via the website too.
Farmers behind Meat the Need
Siobhan and husband Christopher were 2017 NZ Sharefarmers of the Year and while Siobhan’s always been an integral part of their farm business team, focused on strategy, financial reporting and compliance, she’s also had a number of off-farm business and learning ventures.
She completed a Kellogg leadership programme in 2018 looking at the viability of a carbon neutral red meat brand.
She’s active on social media as Pukeko Pastures – sharing farm life and ventures.
Farming and rural business ventures weren’t her initial career plan though. She’s an experienced secondary school teacher too.
Wayne says Siobhan’s ‘get it done’ approach has been key to getting Meat the Need from “wouldn’t it be great if” stage to a functioning supply chain.
Wayne, a dairy farmer from Golden Bay, is well known on social media as YOLO Farmer where he has more than 25,000 followers. His YOLO Farmer Global Facebook page has more than 104,000 followers.
Each day he posts something to show he’s really living life to the full.
The pages have a mental health focus and Wayne also speaks to groups and conferences about his personal mental health journey and what prompted the YOLO Farmer pages.
He’s active in farming advocacy and policy too as a member of Federated Farmers dairy section executive.