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Protein is hard to come by for many children in Colorado. A Fort Collins nonprofit found a way to help

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Posted at 10:06 AM, Jun 04, 2024

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Food insecurity is a major issue in the state of Colorado. According to the nonprofit Feeding America, it affects more than 10% of the state’s population. 

Jordan Levy moved to Fort Collins in 2019 and wanted to help. He decided to start another nonprofit, Beef Sticks for Backpacks, to address this issue.

“We were looking for a way to give back to the community and to the industry that's been really great to us,” said Levy. “Which is the livestock production industry, specifically cattle production. We thought, wouldn't it be cool if we could put a beef stick in every backpack program in the state of Colorado? And that's ultimately how the idea was born.”

Backpack programs help kids who might only get their meals from school, giving them food to take home for over the weekend. It can be difficult for these organizations to include any protein in the backpacks.

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“What we wanted to do was figure out a way to get beef protein into those backpacks, because beef is one of the most nutritious products in the world,” said Levy. “not to mention this delicious flavor, and the palatability to children.”

Levy soon partnered with Colorado State University, who has allowed Beef Sticks for Backpacks to operate out of their Animal Sciences building. In return, the nonprofit employs CSU students to operate the machinery and create the beef sticks.

“Within a week of working here, I dropped the pre-vet track and I switched my major,” said Alie Lock, a student entering her junior year at CSU. “I have honestly fallen in love and kind of found my passion here.”

All of the equipment and all of the beef is donated. Any of the money donated to the nonprofit goes to paying the students for their labor.

Beef Sticks for Backpacks started small, only making 300 beef sticks per week. It has since grown to making more than 20,000 per week.

“I would have been satisfied if we would have delivered 20,000 beef steaks by the time I retired and perished,” said Levy. “ And so the fact that we were able to do that within a short three to four years is absolutely incredible. And I think it speaks to the testament and the hard work of our teams.”

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“The ability to produce a stick at a at a nonprofit university is kind of unheard of,” said Dan Byers, executive director of Beef Sticks for Backpacks. “And we’re producing a beef stick that's intended specifically for hungry kids. And nowhere else in the country is a product being produced like that, let alone at a university.”

Byers has helped expand the program into reaching 92% of the counties in the state.

“We often hear that it's the first item that gets eaten, often not even making it off the bus,” said Byers. “Kids love the beef sticks, and our ability to be consistent thanks to CSU and producing these year round has been amazing.”

Every dollar that is donated to Beef Sticks for Backpacks helps produce and donate three beef sticks to backpack programs across Colorado. You can check out their website if you would like to help.