Tyson supports Grand Champion Giving program, helps neighbors facing hunger

Feeding America West Michigan’s Grand Champion Giving program encourages livestock purchasers at county fairs to donate the animals they buy to the food bank. Meat from this livestock is then processed and distributed to our partner agencies in the county it came from, providing protein for neighbors facing hunger.

A crowd of people gather in a barn to bid on livestock.

Often, buyers come from local businesses and purchase animals at a cost higher than market price to support the 4H and FFA students who are selling them. They often don’t need the amount of meat they purchase, so the Grand Champion Giving program was created to give these buyers a way to support both 4H kids and neighbors in need at the same time.

“A big part of this program was not only to be able to get fresh, local protein to our clients, but to get them different cuts of meat that they don’t normally see at a pantry and they don’t have the means or the luxury to purchase at a grocery store,” explained Food Acquisition Manager, Mallory Weber.

Tyson’s support of the program enabled the food bank to purchase animals directly and process more donated animals this year. Thanks to them, 16,107 pounds of meat ended up on the plates of neighbors in Newaygo, Oceana, Allegan, Kent, Ionia and Delta counties.

Most of the Grand Champion Giving meat is distributed farmers market style through the Mobile Food Pantry program, along with fresh produce and other items.

The United Church of Wayland hosts one of these Mobile Food Pantries each month. At September’s food distribution, a senior named Cathy shared her story. She explained how purchasing food – especially meat – at the store can be pricey.

Cathy receives meat from a Mobile Food Pantry.

Cathy retired at the age of 55 due to an injury. She had worked at an airport.

“I was just trying to do my job well and I overdid it,” she said. “I miss it so much.”

Two protruding discs in her back continue to make it impossible for her to lift luggage like she used to. After her injury, she moved from her home in Houston to be with one of her three sons. In West Michigan, she found it hard to make ends meet.

“It took a lot of my paycheck just to pay for food,” she said. “I don’t eat much meat, but the meat that I do is so expensive.”

Soon after relocating, one of her other sons died and Cathy was so grief-stricken that she could barely leave her home. Cathy’s youngest son encouraged her to begin attending Mobile Food Pantries. At first she felt ashamed, but then realized she shouldn’t be.

Today, Cathy is branching out and getting involved in her community by volunteering. She’s also applying to be a foster parent. Thanks to United Church of Wayland’s Mobile Pantries, she no longer has to worry about how she’ll afford food.

“It’s a real blessing,” she said.

Thanks to supporters like Tyson, Cathy doesn’t need to go without. Feeding America West Michigan is grateful for their support, and for all who support the Grand Champion Giving program. Together, we can ensure neighbors have access to the protein they need.

Story written by Juliana Ludema, communication assistant.