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November 2010

Giving Thanks by Giving


Bob Stallman
President
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

Over the years, Americans have carved out November as a time for gratitude. We are fortunate to live in a country that’s rich with opportunity, sustained by democracy and blessed with a bounty of food. So, it makes sense to celebrate that abundance by giving thanks at Thanksgiving time.

But, as we sit down at the dinner table this Thanksgiving to turkey and all the trimmings, there are many who are going without. Just because our nation is plentiful with food, doesn’t mean everyone has a meal on their table. So, this month let us give thanks by giving to others who are truly in need.

Going Without

It is hard to imagine that in this great nation of plenty there are nearly 50 million Americans going hungry. According to Feeding America, 49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households in 2008. Of those, 16.7 million were children. In fact, households that are more likely to experience a lack of food have children living within them.

Many soup kitchens and food pantries around the nation offer some Americans their only hope for feeding themselves and their kids. For this reason, Farm Bureau members work year-round to donate food from their farms, time away from their operations and dollars from their wallets to local food banks and other charitable organizations in the hope that someday we can erase hunger from this country.

Since its inception in 2003, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s “Harvest for All” initiative, coordinated through our Young Farmers & Ranchers program, but open to all, has given nearly $1 million and more than 20 million pounds of food to food banks, soup kitchens, shelters, pantries and churches. Combined, through this program farmers and ranchers have provided more than 23 million meals to those in need.

Getting Creative

Food is typically on Farm Bureau members’ minds all of the time. As producers, we understand the importance of having a food-secure nation. That’s why farmers work throughout the year to secure food for people going without. Sometimes it takes getting creative.

In New York last year, farmers worked with third and fourth grade students at an elementary school to plant and harvest winter squash. When all was said and done, the students produced 2,500 pounds of squash, which was donated to their regional food bank.

In South Dakota, when PETA protesters were dumping gallons of milk in the streets the day before Thanksgiving, dairy producers and other farmers rallied and went gallon-for-gallon with the advocacy group. For every gallon dumped in the street, farmers donated a gallon to the local food bank. In less than 24 hours, producers gave more than 1,000 gallons of milk – just in time for the holiday meal.

And in Pennsylvania, several Farm Bureau members worked with an organic vegetable farm that had been giving all of its excess produce to beef cows, to instead donate it to the area food bank. Farm Bureau members provided the bridge from the farm to the food bank, which resulted in more than 6,000 pounds of donated produce.

Understandably, charitable acts that we should all be undertaking year-round can sometimes fall by the wayside. So, this month, in particular, as we give thanks, let us make an extra effort to ensure that everyone has something to be thankful for.