Soy checkoff Stepping Up for St. Cloud health care heroes

The soybean checkoff is giving back to health care heroes this holiday season.

From farm to frontline, the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) has taken another leap forward to highlight environmentally friendly investments from the soybean checkoff. In summer 2022, the Council, which directs the state’s soybean checkoff resources, launched the Stepping Up campaign to boost farmer profitability and promote value-added uses of the “miracle bean” while making community connections.  

Following the successful 2021 Driving Soy promotion, soybean farmers from across Minnesota are promoting renewable, value-added soy products and giving back to frontline health care workers in their communities. In 2022, the Council’s organized county program, which represents more than 50 counties throughout the state, has led to more than 3,000 donated pairs of shoes to Minnesota health care workers.

“We know how much health care workers sacrifice for others in communities throughout Minnesota, especially in the past couple of years. I’ve seen it firsthand,” said Council Chair Joe Serbus, whose wife, Doreen, has worked in health care for more than 40 years. “This campaign has been an investment in both value-added soybean products and in the selfless health care professionals who keep us safe and healthy.”

To cap the 2022 Stepping Up outreach effort, Serbus and Council Director Paul Freeman began December by donating 120 pairs of Skechers soy-based GO shoes to personnel at CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital’s ICU Department.

Council Chair Joe Serbus (second to left) and Director Paul Freeman (left) visit with staff at St. Cloud Hospital ICU Department and explain the soybean checkoff investments that led to Skechers’ soy-based shoes during a donation on Dec. 1, 2022.

“We want to give a huge ‘thanks’ to (MSR&PC) for recognizing the hard work and sacrifices our team made during the pandemic,” said Michelle Gamble, director of Intensive Care at St. Cloud Hospital. “To be recognized like this – we really appreciate it. It means a lot to us.”

Founded in 1995, CentraCare supports 30 clinics throughout Minnesota and is the state’s largest rural health care provider. Earlier in 2022, the St. Cloud Hospital was named one of the nation’s best hospitals by U.S. World Report.

“We greatly enjoyed visiting with the staff and the care providers at CentraCare,” Freeman said. “It was a day filled with mutual respect and gratitude, and Joe and I were extremely proud to participate in this event.”

CentraCare Foundation Vice President Brad Konkler said in-kind donations like the Council’s help drive the hospital’s mission to provide quality health care services to Greater Minnesota.

“We’re grateful for the community support of our frontline workers. They really set the gold standard,” he said. “The ICU staff is committed to a life of service, and with the donation of these shoes, they see that people care.”

A step above the rest

In 2020, Skechers released its GO line of footwear, which uses soybean oil to improve grip, stability and durability. Skechers is using the same checkoff-supported technology featured in Goodyear Tire Company’s line of sustainable soy-based tires, which incorporated soy into its rubber technology.

Kurt Stockbridge, Skechers vice president of Product Development and Innovation, said the company and the soybean checkoff are stepping up to create a superior shoe and reduce their environmental footprints.

“Discovering ways to make product more sustainable is top of mind for Skechers,” Stockbridge said. “Though we were aware of the sustainable qualities of soybean oil, we were surprised to learn what the oil could do to improve our outsole rubber performance.”

For each dollar soybean farmers pay toward checkoff resources, Minnesota producers receive an estimated $12.33 in return value. More than 1,000 commercially available products – ranging from shoes to machinery lubricants to asphalt – use commodity and high oleic soybean oil.

“Once that soybean hits the mill, it’s local, it’s national – it’s everywhere,” said Belinda Burrier, a United Soybean Director who helped oversee the partnership with Skechers. “The money farmers make back on the checkoff is fantastic.”

The Council hopes to continue taking big steps in 2023 by connecting with their communities through soy checkoff investments and promotions.

“This campaign really encompasses everything the Council and our county organizations set out to achieve,” Serbus said. “We’ve all experienced some setbacks, but we’re excited to step up and move the checkoff forward.” 

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