The first year Christine Allen showed a steer at the California Mid-State Fair, she organized a group of friends and family members to buy the animal and donate it to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County.
She did it again the following year — eventually donating thousands of pounds of meat to the food bank before her tragic death in a rock slide accident in May.
“That was the type of person Christine was,” said her mother, Edna Valley resident Debbie Allen. “She saw a need in the community and she figured out how to fix it, how to make it better. She, in the process, blessed a lot of people.”
Allen may be gone, but her legacy will live on in the form of the Christine Allen Memorial SLO Food Bank Fund, founded by Farm Supply Co. and the county Food Bank Coalition to cover the costs of processing animals donated by Junior Livestock Auction participants to the food bank.
Representatives from the food bank, which feeds more than 44,000 county residents each year, will be on hand at Saturday’s livestock auction to talk about the memorial fund.
Debbie Allen said her daughter would have been touched to see the fair and livestock communities coming together to help others.
“She would be thrilled to know that people were donating meat to help the hungry,” she said.
The fifth of seven children, Christine Allen was an avid member of the Edna 4-H Club who spent two years showing lambs before switching to steers.
She got the idea to organize a buyers’ group from a friend who had tried the same thing in Santa Barbara County, her mother said.
“It’s like killing two birds with one stone,” Debbie Allen explained. “You do one project and you help feed the needy and help fund your animal project.”
In 2007, Christine Allen persuaded 50 or so donors to contribute $5 to $200 apiece to purchase her steer Black Jack at the Junior Livestock Auction.
“She was so proud that first day when she delivered 400-plus pounds of ground meat” to the food bank, her mother recalled. “It was the culmination of a lot of effort.”
According to Debbie Allen, an average fair steer weighs 1,250 pounds, resulting in 650 to 700 pounds of meat. At auction, steers go for $2.25 a pound or more, she said.
However, “cut and wrap” costs can bump up the price of the meat by 60 cents to a dollar per pound, county Food Bank Coalition CEO Carl Hansen said.
“It always upset (Christine) to realize that we had to pay so much for the processing,” he said. “We could never afford to buy animals by buying them at the auction. That would not be a good use of our donors’ money.”
Although the food bank prizes meat as an essential source of protein, he said, “It’s one of the most expensive products.”
According to Hansen, the food bank distributed 120,537 pounds of frozen beef, poultry, fish and other meat contributed by donors in 2012. About 20,000 pounds came from Christine Allen and two other Junior Livestock Auction participants, as well as the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation of Santa Barbara.
Hansen said it’s relatively rare for 4-H and FFA members, who spend considerable time and money raising their animals, to organize buyers to donate them to the food bank.
“It takes a very mature and very caring young person to do that,” Hansen said, predicting that livestock donations to the Food Bank Coalition will increase in future years, thanks to Allen’s example.
“She blazed a new trail, a way of serving the community that hadn’t been done before,” he said.
“Christine was totally unselfish and a true champion to others,” said Jim Brabeck, Farm Supply president and chief executive officer. “She was the catalyst that made this donation avenue possible.”
Christine Allen, who was 19 when she died May 7, and her younger sister, Mary, were honored earlier this year for their work with the food bank with Congressional Awards, given to Americans ages 14 to 23 who set and achieve personal goals in four categories: volunteer public service, personal development, physical fitness and expedition/exploration.
The Allen sisters earned their silver medals by volunteering with the food bank, raising animals to donate to the food bank, planning a three-day wilderness camping trip and hiking the Manzana Trail near Figueroa Mountain. In addition, Mary Allen played piano for her church and swam, and her sister learned how to play the guitar and rode horses.
In a statement, U.S. Rep. Lois Capps said the Congressional Award was “a very special way to honor the memory of Christine — her love for her family, her passion for horses and agriculture, and her commitment of service to others.”
How to help
For more information about the Christine Allen Memorial SLO Food Bank Fund, call the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County at 235-2851 or visit http://slofoodbank.org.