Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Nick Soledad at Utah Food Bank unloads some of the eggs donated by coalition of Utah egg farmers.

A coalition of Utah egg farmers joined together to give 65,000 eggs to the Utah Food Bank Thursday.

The effort is part of a pre-Easter push to get 12 million eggs to the needy nationwide. Between now and Easter, March 23, the Utah Food Bank will receive 235,000 more eggs.

"Eggs are highly nutritious and high protein," said Utah Food Bank development director Janael Ford. "They really are a highly sought-after item."

Several Utah farmers regularly donate eggs, but they decided to work together to make this large donation based on the results of a 2007 Utah hunger survey that found a need for nutritious, high-protein foods in the state.

"Many of these people lack fresh foods," said Cliff White, co-owner of Oakdell Farms. "Eggs are a particularly good source of protein."

Eggs also provide many vital nutrients and can be cooked quickly, according to United Egg Producers. Eggs can safely be kept in refrigerators for up to three weeks.

Egg farmers in Utah work in Cache, Millard, Tooele and Utah counties, said Utah Commissioner of Agriculture Leonard Blackham. They produce twice the number of eggs consumed by state residents so are able to sell to other areas, thereby adding to Utah's economy.

Egg farmers in Utah have also kept with the tradition of family farming, though the practice has changed from small coops to mass production operations, Blackham said.

"They're different from yesteryear, but they're still families," he said.

The Fassio family farm has about 40 employees, eight of whom are members of the original Italian family, said Tony Fassio, a fourth-generation operator of the farm. Egg farming is really a foundation for the Fassio family, and no family celebrations go by without deviled eggs and inquiries about new egg recipes, he said.

"We started in wheat in 1912, then went to eggs," Fassio said. "This is all we've ever done in this country."

The Utah Food Bank will be able to transport the donated eggs to 75 rural and urban pantries around Utah, said Executive Director Jim Pugh. The eggs will be included in food boxes as a fresh protein source.

The thousands of boxes given daily also contain non-perishable items and frozen goods, Pugh said. But the fresh foods are becoming a more important part of the charity food business.

Grocers in the past few years have gotten better at estimating the food they will be able to sell, Pugh explained, so they aren't giving as much excess to charity.

Local farmers and dairies, plus individuals with backyard and community gardens, are making up the difference, Pugh said. Industries such as the egg and poultry business are also stepping up.

Thursday's egg contribution is a great example of how competing businesses within any industry can work together to help, Pugh said.

"Giving is a huge part of what we have always done," Fassio said. "We operate in this community and the community is important to us."

The food bank has large refrigerators and freezers and accepts all kinds of food donations. Monetary donations can also be made online at utahfoodbank.org.


E-mail: rpalmer@desnews.com