By Cyndie Shearing
A recent report from USDA’s Economic Research Service (Household Food Security in the United States in 2018) revealed that the prevalence of food insecurity declined nationwide, for the first time, to the pre-recession (2007) level of 11.1%. In other words, over the last few years, more U.S. households are becoming food-secure – meaning they have access to enough food for an active and healthy lifestyle.
In non-metropolitan or rural areas, the rate of food insecurity has also declined over the past few years and is currently 12.7% (down from 15% in 2016). Despite this progress, work remains to be done, which is why state and county Farm Bureaus across the nation continue to fight hunger in local communities.
A round-up of successful Farm Bureau initiatives conducted in 2019, including raising money and creative food donation and preparation efforts, is below.
Georgia – Members raised nearly $23,000 for the Georgia Food Bank Association through the Harvest for All campaign, which collected donations from county Farm Bureaus and the organization’s state office, as well as the Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee’s “Calf’s Weight in Change” drive.
Illinois – Harvest for All program winners in five membership categories conducted a range of creative activities to meet the needs of food-insecure neighbors across the state. This included a “Fill-A-Ford” food drive at a grocery store; encouraging members to donate crop proceeds, vegetables, meat and eggs; coordination of mobile food pantries; packaging bags of food for needy families; and collecting cash donations.
Maryland – Young farmer members packed 5,000 meals for families in need as part of the Outreach Program, which provides simple, nutritious food for those in need, particularly children, in the U.S. and abroad. Packed meals were donated to Maryland Food Bank community partners. The event was conducted as part of the Harvest for All program.
Michigan – The Michigan Foundation for Agriculture’s Agent Charitable Fund awarded grants to local food banks and donated refrigerated trailers to the Food Bank Council of Michigan. The fund is partnering with the Farm Bureau Family of Companies (including members, employees, industry partners and neighbors) through the Punt Hunger Campaign to provide Michigan-grown turkey, ham, potatoes and milk to food banks during the end-of-year holidays.
Minnesota – Sixty-eight county Farm Bureaus (out of 78 in the state) held events resulting in donations of 12,200 pounds of food, 43,000 meals and $33,700 to local food shelves, reaching 52,250 people. In addition, attendees at the state annual meeting conducted a sandwich-making service project for Allan Law’s Love One Another program. More than 1,000 sandwiches were made for those in need.
Montana – The Young Farmers & Ranchers Hoofin’ it for Hunger Race attracted runners from across the country to compete in an event that raised money to fight hunger in the state. The race brought in funds for the Montana Food Bank Network as well as food for the Custer County Food Bank. The event was conducted as part of the Harvest for All program.
New Hampshire – For the third year in a row, the Young Farmer Committee collected and delivered Thanksgiving dinner baskets to families in need across the state.
New York – A multitude of activities included gleaning that yielded hundreds of pounds of peppers and eggplants for donation to a regional food bank; collection of food and cash donations; food packaging; participation in the Ten Gallon Milk Challenge; and a pie auction to raise funds.
Oklahoma – Again in 2019, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture partnered with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and Oklahoma FFA, to care for and transport donated show animals to be processed into protein sticks for the food bank’s backpack program. The program has created more than 1 million protein sticks per year over the past several years. The sticks are included in backpacks that are sent home from school with children on weekends.
Pennsylvania – A county Farm Bureau helped a local food bank establish an on-site farm to produce food for clients and the Women’s Leadership Committee collected donations for local food banks.
Tennessee – Members participated in the Shooting Hunger event at the Nashville Gun Club to help Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee fight food insecurity in the Volunteer State.
Also in 2019, grassroots Farm Bureau members at two American Farm Bureau events – the Annual Convention and Trade Show in January and the FUSION Conference in March, teamed up to package a total of 20,000 meals for the Outreach Program.
Cyndie Shearing is director of internal communications for the American Farm Bureau Federation.