Reicks View Farms, in partnership with the Melissa Lea Reicks Foundation (MLR Foundation), has a rich history of giving back to communities in which its employees live. As Reicks View Farms has continued to grow, the MLR Foundation has as well. Along with monetary donations to various community organizations, ham donations to local food banks have become a staple, especially around the holidays.
When the global pandemic reached the United States, food banks across the nation saw a 31% increase in the amount of food dispersed to families in need. Northeast Iowa was no exception. “During the first 12 weeks of the pandemic, we saw a 20% increase across all programs,” said Becca Huber, Food Sourcing Manager of the Northeast Iowa Food Bank.
Increased use combined with higher food prices due to transportation costs and labor shortages has caused a strain on area food banks. Despite these higher costs, the Northeast Iowa Food Bank has been able to provide up to four meals for every $1 given to the organization due to its ability to acquire food in bulk, food drives, and donations that come back from the community.
Since 2019, the MLR Foundation has more than doubled its ham donations to area food pantries. “The donations tend to be around the holidays and provide families not only nutrition, but a sense of normal,” said Martin Ahrndt, the Northeast Iowa Community Action Corporation of Howard County (NEICAC) Family Service Specialist for Howard County, “It can be hard for families to afford meat when budgets are tight and the hams help people have a traditional holiday meal for families.”
Reicks View Farms and the NEICAC of Howard County have built a close relationship with one another. “In previous years, it has consisted mostly of hams throughout the year,” said Martin, “but it has grown recently.” This growth is from the added time Reicks View Farms employees have recently given. On November 13th, employees and their families helped sort and organize the Cresco Boy Scouts of America Annual food drive items donated from community members. “Hundreds of items were donated and each [item] has to be date checked to make sure it is safe to redistribute,” Martin said. Having RVF employees help facilitate this made a big job seem not so big, ”many hands make light work!” What would have taken staff at the pantry many hours to do, RVF volunteers had done in just two hours.
Reicks View Farms employees also enjoy the volunteer opportunities provided to them. Cindy Kostohryz, Med Warehouse and Purchasing Assistant has been an employee for 15 years and makes it a point to volunteer every opportunity she can. “Volunteering is very important to me…When time permits, I try to volunteer wherever and whenever,” said Cindy. “Reicks View Farms through the Melissa Lea Reicks Foundation has helped so many organizations and I am proud to be a part of this organization.”
In addition to the NEICAC Howard County branch, Reicks View Farms also donates to the Bremer, Chickasaw, Winneshiek, and Allamakee branches along with seven other private food banks. This adds up to a lot of hams. Over 7,000 pounds of ham will be distributed before Christmas. Employees also enjoy the positive feedback from ham donations. Isaac Hover, Biosecurity Insight, has helped deliver hams since they first started donating them. “Some families were in need of a ham for the holidays and for some, it was a great gesture to thank them. Giving hams is my favorite thing to volunteer for as you see so many happy people.”
The generosity of Reicks View Farms and the MLR Foundation has a great impact on its employees. In 2020, employees came together and sponsored three area families with gifts for Christmas. This year, that number increased to the sponsorship of 13 families across Northeast Iowa by over 50 Reicks View Farm employees.
“It’s exciting to see how our employees come together to help so many families,” Megan Mueterthies, Livestock Coordinator, “Everyone wants to help others, and seeing the generosity of all of us coming together is a great feeling.”
By giving back to the communities in which Reicks View Farms employees live and work, together they truly are Families Feeding Families.