Competition heats up between Missouri and Kansas FFA chapters for Western Farm Show Food Drive
By Susan Fotovich McCabe
Lone Jack High School is working hard to retain its 2012 winner title in this year's Western Farm Show FFA Food Drive, but school agriculture instructor Dusty Davidson says they won't give away their secrets!
Last year, Lone Jack High School collected 1,380 pounds of food for the show challenge--a border war between the Missouri and Kansas FFA chapters. This year, the border war continues as part of the Western Farm Show's FFA Day, Feb. 22, and all food is donated to Harvesters, the area's only food bank, serving urban and rural communities in a 26-county area of northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri.
"It was a good feeling last year to be the winner. We had no idea of what it would take to win since it was the first year so we tried to go all out," says Davidson. "We ended up having the most by far, and I think that the students took a real sense of pride in knowing that."
Harvesters provides food to more than 620 not-for-profit agencies, including emergency food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, children's homes and others. Agencies in Harvesters' network provide food assistance to as many as 66,000 different people each week.
While the word "hunger" typically evokes images of an urban core, it's just as prevalent along the open roads and green fields of rural America. Not surprisingly, many families are food insecure, says Harvesters Communications Manager Sarah Biles--meaning they may have food for today, but face uncertainties about future meals.
"Unfortunately, families in rural America don't always come forward for help, often because they're embarrassed," says Biles. "But it's just as likely there's a family on your block, in your church or at your school who could use assistance."
Last year, the Western Farm Show FFA Food Drive resulted in 3,000 pounds of food--enough to serve 2,252 meals, according to Biles. She's hoping this year's food drive will equal or exceed that amount.
Both the Missouri and Kansas FFA chapters are working hard at gathering the collections.
"Our students may not know who is in need, but the activity certainly makes them more aware of the issue and the need to serve those in need," says Kansas FFA Foundation Executive Director Kerry Wefald.
It's a sentiment echoed by Missouri FFA Association Executive Secretary Keith Dietzschold.
"I would guess that some of our own students are affected by hunger and food insecurity," he says. "We'll make a real difference close to home."
At Lone Jack High School, Davidson says each of his classes devotes conversations to hunger, even including the "God Made a Farmer" commercial that aired during this year's Super Bowl in the discussions. Dodge, sponsor of the commercial, is sponsoring the FFA program, "Feeding the World Starting at Home," along with Case IH. Davidson says Lone Jack High School usually participates in a food drive during Christmas and donates the items to the local food pantry. Also, several of its FFA members are part of a team at school that helps deliver Mule Packs (backpacks with food in them) to the elementary school students who need them on the weekends.
"Students need to be aware of all things that are of importance in their communities, but hunger specifically is important," he says. "I think my students need to be sensitive to the situation because the reason a child goes hungry may or may not be in their own control. If my students were ever put in that situation, they would want to feel like there are people out there who do care and are willing to help those in need."
Despite the serious nature of the food drive, SouthWestern Association Director of Education Cory Hayes believes the activity will spur a fun spirit of rivalry between the two state chapters as well.
"I'm absolutely convinced that Kansas is going to make a huge effort to take the title away from Missouri," Hayes chuckled. "No one wants to lose, but in this case, both state chapters are winners if we stock our much-needed food pantries."