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Pork and agriculture leaders from across the state came to Waterloo Tuesday to express their gratitude to the community for supporting and lifting the spirits of Iowa's pig farmers during the pandemic.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig was among the visitors who attended a "Thank-You Waterloo" event at the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. He said the pandemic shined a light on the important job ag producers have.

"We hope that folks learned about the absolute importance of a strong food and supply chain," Naig said. "Sometimes I think that we take for granite that everything we need is going to be readily available on the grocery store shelves. There were times this (past) year where that just wasn't true. I think that's a reminder to all of us -- regardless of whether you're in the agriculture industry or not -- you benefit from a strong, thriving agriculture, especially in a state like Iowa."

As part of the celebration, Naig presented the Secretary's Ag Leader Award for Leadership in Community to the Iowa Food Bank Association (IFBA). The group of six Feeding America-member food banks were integral in distributing meat donations to Iowans impacted by work reduction and job losses caused by COVID-19.

"These are great folks who have given so much of their time this past year to meet this dramatic increase in food insecurity," Naig said. "We know that's something that's not going to go away immediately. We are preparing for -- and should prepare for -- the long haul here to continue to meet the needs of our neighbors. Whether it's volunteering or monetary donations or donating food to food banks and food pantries, I really encourage folks to think about your neighbor who may be struggling.

"It takes a lot of communication, dialogue and partnerships to ensure that we can move those products from the farm to the consumer's plate and do so in a way that it's safe and affordable and abundant," Naig said.

Iowa pig farmers also donated $1,000 to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank for its continued work to alleviate hunger.

"We need to remember that communities like Waterloo and others across the state are so important to our food bank system and supply chain," Naig said. "It works both ways. Our farmers should support communities like Waterloo. You're seeing that today -- getting a thank-you tour and a thank-you embrase from producers. Waterloo stepped up to support our pig farmers during some very, very challenging times."

The Iowa Pork Producers Association sponsored the "Thank-You Waterloo" event, which was held on "National Ag Day". The organization distributed pork coupons at local Fareway and Hy-Vee stores for consumers to use, delivered pork baskets to local police officers and firefighters, and handed out 1,300 5-pound pork loins to residents who drove to the National Cattle Congress Fairgrounds for the free give away.

Similar community "thank-you" celebrations are being planned this spring in other Iowa locations. Those events are scheduled to be held in Denison, Marshalltown, Ottumwa, Sioux City and Storm Lake.

Thank-You Waterloo! - Tuesday, March 23, 2021

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