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Serving: IN

Helping those in need then, now and in the future

Jim Droege Jim Droege prepares to make a delivery
FOOD ON THE WAY: Jim Droege prepares to deliver 300 pounds of ground pork and 300 pounds of ground beef to a church in Evansville, Ind.
Dedicated farmers and their supporters in southwest Indiana help keep people fed.

Perhaps there has never been a greater need to help others than during the pandemic year of 2020. For a group of farmers and the neighbors who support them in southwest Indiana, it’s just a matter of continuing what they’ve done for nearly two decades. They make sure as many people as possible in their communities who need food get meat.

Partners in Food started in the early 2000s when four farmers saw a need to make sure people in their area who relied on food pantries had meat to eat. Jim Droege, brothers Carl and Albert Schmitz, and Marvin Redman co-founded Partners in Food, and it continues to serve local communities today.

The program operates by gathering sponsorships from individuals, organizations, businesses, churches and foundations. Sponsorships are typically $250. Most farmers contribute by pledging the gross proceeds of 1 acre less the $250 sponsorship for their acre. Money collected is used to acquire hogs and cattle. Some livestock farmers opt to donate animals in lieu of gross proceeds for 1 acre minus the sponsorship, Droege notes.

“The first year for the Partners in Food program, we acquired and processed 10 hogs and two beef,” he recalls. “In 2019, we acquired 185 hogs and 41 beef, which were processed into 1-pound packages of ground beef and ground pork and delivered to local food pantries.”

Jim DroegeJim Droege, left, Tom Dewig and Marvin Redman

COMMUNITY SUPPORT: Many people are involved in supporting the Partners in Food project. Here, Jim Droege (left) and Marvin Redman (right) pick up 1,800 pounds of ground pork at Dewig Meats, Haubstadt, Ind. Tom Dewig (center) helps load the meat.

The program is operated through a local church, Zion-Lippe United Church of Christ. Because it’s run by volunteers, the program has zero overhead. To be open and transparent, Partners in Food hosts an annual get-together every February, usually the week after the Super Bowl, Droege explains.

Those providing sponsorships and/or livestock, farmers who participate, those who process the livestock and food pantry directors are invited. Information is shared by the pantry directors, Droege says. Program participants are recognized, and the past year’s activity is reviewed.

People struggling with the economic impact of COVID-19 are the beneficiaries this year. But even when there isn’t a pandemic, there are still good people who need a helping hand, Droege concludes.

Jim DroegeJim Droege stocks the freezer at God's Storehouse

FILL THE FREEZER: Jim Droege stocks the freezer at God’s Storehouse, a food pantry in Posey County, Ind., with ground pork.

If you would like to help, you can send donations. Any amount will be accepted. To contribute, make your check payable to Zion-Lippe UCC, with “Partners in Food” noted in the memo section. Send to: Jim Droege, 1200 Coborn Rd. N., Mount Vernon, IN 47620.

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