When local youths sold their lambs, pigs, sheep, goats and other farm animals at the St. Tammany Parish Junior Livestock Show, they became part of a unique agricultural enterprise. This is the second year the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry program has involved area donors to purchase about a dozen of the 100 animals sold at the auction to benefit both the program and the community.

Commercial food processors prepared the meat and it was sold by buyers who specialize in providing locally raised meats to area restaurants. The proceeds, combined with donations from members of the area food industry, resulted in the donation of more than 3,000 pounds of meat to feed area families through the Covington Food Bank.

“This is critical to these families,” Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain said. “They may be between jobs, fallen on hard times or have medical issues. This helps to bridge that gap.”

It’s also part of his department’s efforts to promote fresh and local foods.

“There’s a direct positive correlation between health and fresh foods,” he said. “For many of the poor, fresh produce and meat is hard for them to obtain.”

The food banks serves more than 360 families a week from a three-parish area. Each week it provides about 35 pounds of nonperishable foods and other items such as bread and soda. Typically, protein comes in the form of canned tuna and peanut butter.

Many were surprised when volunteers loaded the 10 pounds of frozen meat into their vehicles.

Lisa Creel, of Bogalusa, is raising her three grandchildren. She said the donation of meat means “the kids are going to have a good supper now.”

Donors with the project were on hand to help with the distribution.

“This helps the kids out with their project and helps the people in the community,” said David Huval, of Huval’s Trucking, whose son was in 4-H, and now his grandchildren raise hogs in the program.

Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Brent Robbins said last year they had 1,500 pounds donated, and this year, it more than doubled.

“I grew up in the 4-H program and my father was a leader in 4-H. I’ve seen the good that comes out of these programs,” Robbins said. “Next year, I’d like to see it double again.”