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Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Over-The-Hill Hens Donated To Local Food Bank

We follow 500 hens from the pastures of Schacht Farm to the warehouse of the Hoosier Hills Food Bank.

  • carrying chickens in crates

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    Photo: Jennifer Vickers

    Volunteers from the Hoosier Hills Food Bank learned the meaning of the phrase "ruffling someone's feather" when they helped round up chickens at Schacht Farm.

  • chickens on Schacht Farm

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    Photo: Jennifer Vickers

    The chickens on Schacht Farm are rotated over 16 acres of pasture throughout the year. Napier says that's how she keeps her birds happy and healthy without the use of chemicals.

  • standing around group of chickens

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    Photo: Jennifer Vickers

    Farmer Mandy Napier (left) was joined by several volunteers from the Hoosier Hills Food Bank to round up the chickens for donation.

  • placing chickens in crates

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    Photo: Jennifer Vickers

    After collecting the birds, they placed them in crates. Napier drove the birds to the processing facility the next morning.

Extra Credit

As the Garden and Gleaning Intern for the Hoosier Hills Food Bank (HHFB), I’ve broadened my agricultural horizons — from picking mealy bugs off cabbage seedlings to trellising a 100 foot row of tomatoes.

But I never expected to learn how to corral nearly 500 hens. That’s something they definitely don’t teach you in grad school.

Too Expensive To Donate

The hens were from Schacht Farm, a local family farm specializing in eggs, pork, turkey and chicken. After three years, the hens stopped laying eggs.

While they were no longer valuable to farmer Mandy Napier’s business, “We knew they could provide nutrient dense food for someone who needed it.” But Napier was not in a position to pay the expensive processing costs to make donating the meat to HHFB possible.

By allowing them to be fully utilized first as laying hens, then for stewing hens, we feel that we did do right by them.

Deer To Venison

That’s where Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry came in. They cover the processing fee for deer or livestock that hunters or farmers want donated to area food banks.

“One reason this program is so important and so helpful is because we don’t typically receive protein donations,” says Julio Alonso, Executive Director of HHFB. And, protein is always something hunger organizations are looking to put on their shelves.

With the processing fee covered, Schacht Farm was able to donate 1,296 pounds of frozen chicken to HHFB. The chicken has been distributed to HHFB’s 95 member agencies, which include nearly 100 emergency food pantries, daycare centers serving low-income children, shelters and soup kitchens.

Chasing Chickens

On the evening of July 2, a few HHFB staff members and half dozen volunteers ventured out to Schacht Farm. Napier showed us the ropes — how to coax the rowdy birds to gather in a penned area, scoop them up, gently pet their heads to calm them, and place them in crates.

Thanks to this experience, I learned firsthand the meaning of the phrase “ruffling someone’s feathers.”

Early the next morning, she drove the chickens from her farm to a nearby processing facility.

It’s important to her that her animals’ lives matter as much as possible. “By allowing them to be fully utilized first as laying hens, then for stewing hens, we feel that we did do right by them,” says Napier.

More: Farmers and hunters interested in donating deer or livestock can contact the Hoosier Hills Food Bank for details — (812) 334-8374 or hhfb@hhfoodbank.org.

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