photo and article by Matthew O. Stephens
Residents of the Spokane Veterans Home can trust they will have some extra meat in their meals thanks to a donation of nearly 400 pounds of grass-fed ground beef from a local cattlemen group.
According to Jim Wentland, President of the Spokane County Cattlemen, the organization has donated over $2,000 worth of ground beef to the Spokane Veterans Home this year. He also explained the group has been donating to them for about four years running, and plans to continue for years to come.
“This year so far we have donated around $2,500 of ground beef to the Veterans Home, and this is our primary place to donate,” Wentland said. “These folks are extremely appreciative of it, and it is nice to be able to give back to those who have sacrificed so much for our country.”
Wentland, who is part of a military family and served in the Army himself, also explained that all of the donated beef comes from St. Helens Beef in Union Gap, Washington. Keeping the process as local as possible is an important factor in the process, and Wentland advocates supporting locally and regionally sourced products.
“I just feel better knowing I get my products in a place that will support our regional farms,” Wentland explained. “A lot of people may not realize it, but a lot of the store bought meat is imported and we shouldn’t have to rely on imported meat when we already have access to great local beef producers.”
Richard Brown, who is also a combat veteran, went to Davenport to pick up the meat, then drove it into town for delivery at the Veterans Home. He explained how he feels it’s important to volunteer to help the veterans.
“These guys helped pave the way so we could do what we’ve done,” Brown said. “We really enjoy working with these guys and helping make their stay here as pleasant as possible. Through the efforts of the Spokane County Cattlemen, we can continue to do this.”
Helping financially support the regional farms is only the beginning, and this process also helps the Veterans Home save money as well. With food prices recently increasing with inflation, the standard budget they receive only goes so far according to Karin Gilchrist who has worked with the state since 1989. Gilchrist is the Registered Dietician at the Spokane Veterans Home, and helped open the facility in 2001.
Gilchrist explained that the recent struggles with the budget just add to the troubles that came with COVID-19.
“COVID has been very difficult in every layer of our services here,” Gilchrist said. “How it has affected us dietarily is that there are instances in which we can’t get certain supplements, and in times where we can’t get meat or something we would have to completely change the menu on short notice.”
“And now we see the increasing prices and my boss asks me to keep a closer eye on the budget,” added Gilchrist. “I responded that I hadn’t ordered anything differently. Our budget is a set amount and now we see the prices going up so we have to spread that budget further, so these donations are extremely impactful.”
She also continued to explain the budget is balancing out because they are currently experiencing a labor shortage so the labor costs are under, but they are spending more for food products.
Beef prices are expected to remain quite high as well, and this is due to several factors. Cattle ranchers across the country are struggling with the increased energy costs, and paired with droughts the costs of raising cattle has really affected the profit they can expect.
On a global level, Ukraine’s grain exports have become available on the market again, but feed prices are also exponentially higher than previous years. Combine all of that with a lower number of cattle sold for slaughter, and it has increased the price of ground beef by 10 percent since last year.
The most important part of the donations, according to Gilchrist, is the fact that the residents can enjoy hearty meals even through the supply issues because of the continued support of Wentland and the Spokane County Cattlemen.
“As far as the nutritional benefits, we just got a guy in from Montana who is medically a high-risk resident. He has multiple wounds, suffers from kidney issues and is a diabetic,” Gilchrist explained. “So what we do with this beef will help him get a good stable supply of protein that will help heal his wounds and recover more comfortably.”
According to Gilchrist the residents really like seeing a lot of meat on the menu such as cheeseburgers, and that extra beef tends to keep them comfortable and happy.
“You know these guys in here are meat and potato guys, and a couple were even farmers themselves,” Gilchrist said. “They really enjoy the meals that stick with them and keep them going for a while, and these donations help to make that happen.”