Business Food

More than a grant: meat processors build strong communities

An Op-Ed from Suzanne Crouch, Lt. Governor of Indiana:

Late last year the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and I issued grants to meat processors across the state. Recently, I had the opportunity to learn more about how these funds were used to increase production, eliminate food shortages and support local Hoosier communities while visiting Sander Processing in Dubois County, which received one of the grants.

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch (center) tours Sander Processing with State Rep. Stephen Bartels (R-Eckerty) and Sander Processing owner Chris Sander (left) at Sander Processing on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Sander Processing received $150,000 through the Indiana Meat Processing Expansion and Development Grant Program. 

Funds for the grant program came from the federal CARES Act and were to be used to mitigate challenges caused by COVID-19. Near the start of the national health emergency, our grocers and food supply chain experienced low-stocked shelves and meat counters. Our state ag leaders and I did not want to see that scarcity happen again. So, meat processors were given the opportunity to invest in their business to improve food supply resilience by increasing production, expanding meat processing or promoting worker safety.

Indiana awarded more than $3.7 million to 40 small Hoosier meat processors. In order to qualify, applicants had to commit their own funds to the expansion project. Overall, this totaled a $9 million investment in Indiana’s economy, creating 237 additional jobs for our state. The grant program enabled the meat processing industry to bounce back strong, and provide for their local communities.

During my Sander Processing visit, I met the owners and toured their facility. It was great to see first-hand how the grant funding not only supported a Hoosier business, but also the positive impact the grant had on workers. Sander Processing hired additional workers to increase production, ensuring people in the community have access to fresh local meats and keeping our food supply chain operating.

Sander Processing and other Indiana meat processors pride themselves on curing their meats with local seasonings or making their own, and to kick up the flavor, most processors also smoke their meats in house. Additionally, these processors work with other local businesses and suppliers to keep most, if not all, of their money spent in the local economy.

These businesses pour their heart and soul into their work and communities. I encourage everyone to seek out their local small meat processors and to shop local when possible. It was an honor to spend some time with the backbone of these businesses today. To Sander Processing and the many others who received this funding, it became very clear this was certainly more than just a grant.