Invest An Acre program strives to battle hunger
By Darrin Cline
In an effort to reduce food insecurity in the United States, four national groups have come together to sponsor the "Invest An Acre" Program. ADM, Monsanto, Feeding America and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation have teamed up to supply Americans facing hunger issues with adequate meals.
"Howard Buffett was really the one who started it all. He has done a lot of philanthropy to fight hunger worldwide and was looking for to fight hunger in America," said Ross Fraser, director of Public Relations for Feeding America.
"We wanted to find a way to farmers to give back to their local communities and have the contributions help those in need in their own backyard."
According to the program's website, www.investanacre.com, it is "designed to encourage farmers to donate one acre or more of crop proceeds to help fight hunger in their own communities."
While the long-term plans are not fully established, the Buffett Foundation is committed through the next three years.
Once the farmers leave a harvested crop at an ADM elevator, they can contribute the profit from the grain sale to Feeding America; Feeding America, which helps supply a network of 202 food banks throughout the country, will then use the proceeds to help supply food banks across the country.
According to numbers from Feeding America, via the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 16 percent of Americans are food insecure. Food insecure individuals and families are defined as those who may be able to afford food and not insecure at all times, but may be forced to choose between healthy meals and other basic necessities throughout the year.
Of the almost 50 million Americans that face food insecurity, over 16 million are children. The average cost of a meal in 2010 was $2.52 sense and it would take over $21 billion influx to meet the food needs of all Americans in 2010.
This is where Invest An Acre is looking to farmers to provide assistance and relief. It is estimated that a bushel of corn could provide 18 meals, and a bushel of soybeans could provide nearly 40 meals. This means that, even with the poor conditions of 2012's crop causing projected bushel per acre numbers around 125, one acre of corn could yield over 2,000 meals.
With 2012 being the first harvest season, many food banks and processors are still waiting to see the potential of the program. Denise Gibson with the Ozarks Food Harvest is anticipating the upcoming season. Ozarks Food Harvest supplies food to 28 counties in southwest Missouri.
Gibson hopes and expects farmers to contribute to the program and feeding the less fortunate in their area. For the Ozarks Food Harvest, a single dollar contribution can provide up to five meals.
Angie Gaines from the Regional Food Bank in Oklahoma believes that the farmers in the area will find portions of their crops to harvest, despite the rough growing season in 2012.
"Due to the weather we have had a slow start, but a lot of people are excited," said Gaines, whose food bank in Oklahoma City feeds over 90,000 people a week.
According to Gaines, one in seven people from the Regional Food Bank coverage area is living with hunger. She believes the farmers she has talked to will be open to contribute, even though they are faced with their own lackluster harvest this year.
ADM elevators across the country are accepting donations from harvests, including wheat, corn and soybeans. According to the program, there are 53 Feeding America locations near ADM elevators.
However, the program is working to incorporate local elevators and producers who may not be close to an ADM elevator or Feeding America location. According to Maura Daly, chief communications, programs, and development officer for Feeding America, forms will be available elevators and producers outside of the network that wish to contribute in the fight against hunger.
Daly points out that with the program being in its earliest stages, they are still formulating the long-term possibilities, but hope to eventually be able to fully include elevators across the country.