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Pine Bluff pantry receives ham for holidays

by Byron Tate | October 30, 2022 at 2:26 a.m.
James McCann (right), a route service associate with Ben E. Keith Co., rolls boxes of frozen hams down a ramp and into Neighbor to Neighbor last week as part of a donation made possible through a partnership that includes two food companies and Saracen Casino Resort. Standing next to the truck (from left to right) are Kristi Strain with Petit Jean Meats; Pat Tate with Neighbor to Neighbor; Steve Coleman and Yvette Parker with Ben E. Keith Co.; and Carlton Saffa with Saracen Casino. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Byron Tate)

Because of a bird flu, they’re hams this year instead of turkeys, but there are more than 400 of them, and Neighbor to Neighbor plans to put them to good use.

As it has done in the past, Saracen Casino Resort delivered holiday food this week to the food pantry. The casino has partnered in the past with Ben E. Keith Co., a food distributorship, but because of the shortage of turkeys, a new partner, Petit Jean Meats, was also brought into the mix.

The change from turkeys to hams didn’t faze Pat Tate, executive director of Neighbor to Neighbor.

“Saracen Casino, Ben E. Keith and Petit Jean Meats all came together to show their support for Neighbor to Neighbor and our mission of making the holidays special for all our clients,” Tate said. “We are so grateful for their donation of over 400 Petit Jean hams for our Thanksgiving bags that will go out to all our families.” Carlton Saffa, chief market officer with the casino, said he was happy to be a part of helping out the Pine Bluff agency.

“There are many corporations in Pine Bluff that perform incredible acts of generosity for the community,” Saffa said. “This is just a small contribution for Thanksgiving. And while not everyone can buy a truckload of hams, everyone can play a part, even if it’s a simple act of kindness for a neighbor. Doing that is just as important as what we are doing today.” Turkeys were in short supply last year, but that had its roots in supply side problems associated with the covid pandemic. This year, however, a different kind of pathogen was the culprit.

“Seven months ago, because of the bird flu, millions of turkeys had to be destroyed,” said Bryan Murphy of Food Sales East, a company that represents food companies in Arkansas, including Petit Jean Meats. “It takes six months to bring a bird to market, so suppliers have been able to take care of the needs of grocery stores, but there aren’t many extra turkeys available. We appreciate that Petit Jean stepped up to fill that gap.” Saffa said he looks forward to making the annual food giveaway a holiday tradition.

“We’re proud to do this this year and hope to do it every year,” he said.

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