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21Country: Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry

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GARRETT, Ind. (WPTA21) - Hoosier hospitality in 21Country usually involves kindness, generosity, and food.

And those attributes are what essentially inspired the non-profit, Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry.

Founder Debra Treesh created the organization out of the desire to connect the surplus amount of deer meat hunters had each year, with food banks who could distribute the protein to those in need.

It all started in 2011.

"I retired from another company I worked at for 23 years," Treesh told us, "this was just a hobby. It grew from one county to statewide."

Since then, the non-profit has expanded paying for meat processing for much more than deer.

Now, they also accept donations from livestock.

It made a big difference during the pandemic, when both the need for food, and the resources for donations, skyrocketed.

"Financially, people are really, really giving," Treesh said, "we had a lot of pigs donated too."

About 750 of those pigs came from JBS and Tyson.

They lost thousands of animals after shutting down due to the pandemic.

Local meat processors couldn't meet the demand of so much livestock, so Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry could only save several hundred.

But thousands of pounds of pork filled the shelves of food banks like Community Harvest at a time they needed it the most.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, CEO John Wolf told us on an average Saturday, the food bank would serve 500 people.

During the pandemic, that number jumped well over 1,000.

"The need has gone up substantially with the COVID-19 situation and it doesn't seem to be getting any better at this point," he said.

"Protein is something we need. We get a lot of produce donated, we get a lot of chips and bread but protein is something we need on a day in, day out basis," Wolf continued, "and it's expensive."

Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry also processed many 4-H fair animals.

"A lot of them were virtual instead of going to fair, and we had several counties where they would actually raise the money ahead of time to buy the animals from the kids," Treesh shared, "and then that was all donated to us, and we paid processing fees on it and gave it to the food banks."

"There is such a big need right now. With COVID-19 you have a lot of families that were affected just because they were living life paycheck to paycheck," she said, "and suddenly they don't have a paycheck. So we're glad we can step in with the meat aspect and help them get their food during this time."

"I think we still got a long six months ahead of us," Wolf said, "but with a group like hers, we can help feed the clients that need it."

You can find more information on Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry, how to donate, and more on their website here.

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Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out:

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