By Cyndie Shearing
The spirit of farm communities – including Farm Bureaus and grassroots farmer and rancher members – has always been one of working together and giving back. This long tradition of giving time, talents and resources to lift up communities and help local charities continues as the COVID-19 pandemic grips the nation.
Highlights of recent philanthropy efforts are below.
Georgia – The Morgan County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee teamed up with the Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee to pack 180 lunch bags for students who were out of school March 16-20.
Michigan –The Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan Agent Charitable Fund donated $41,400 to seven regional food banks. The donations will help the food banks meet the increasing demand for food assistance throughout their county service areas during the pandemic.
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, conducted last year, brought in funds for the Montana Food Bank Network as well as food for the Custer County Food Bank.
“Donations like those from Hoofin’ It For Hunger allow Montana Food Bank Network to be prepared for an immediate response to the increased demand for emergency food assistance across the state like the crisis situation we are seeing now with the spread of COVID-19,” said Bill Mathews, Montana Food Bank Network development director. “We are so thankful and blessed to have great partners like those at Montana Farm Bureau who provide support to our mission to end hunger year-round.”
Pennsylvania – Chad Butters, the founder of Eight Oaks Farm Distillery in Pennsylvania, is a Farm Bureau member. His family company was featured in a recent ABC News story that highlighted a shift to production of hand sanitizer that will be donated to local charities and “sold” for an optional donation.
Giving Back Throughout the Year
A round-up of other Farm Bureau “giving back” initiatives conducted over the last year, including raising money and creative food donation and preparation efforts, is below.
Delaware – The Women’s Committee continued a 15-year streak of shopping for groceries to benefit the Ronald McDonald House in Wilmington, providing snacks, meals and other necessities for families with children who are admitted to the hospital. In addition, through the Blue Jacket Bonanza Program, blue corduroy FFA jackets were presented to 44 high school students.
Illinois – Lawrence County Young Leaders launched Farmers & Ranchers Masks for Health (F.A.R.M. for Health), with the goal of collecting new personal protective equipment including N95 face masks. Collected masks and other PPE will be donated to medical personnel who need it.
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.
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.
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, including gleaning, 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.
North Carolina – The Women’s Committee donated $1,010 in money and supplies to the Wesley Shelter, a domestic violence and sexual assault response agency that serves more than 1,500 clients each year. Members of Northampton County Farm Bureau volunteer with Speedway to Healthy, a 1,200-square-foot, walk-through exhibit representing the human body. This creative educational exhibit teaches children in kindergarten through fifth grades how the foods they eat affect their bodies and their health. With Baptists on Mission, Polk County Farm Bureau members completed training in hands-on construction. Local projects include helping rebuild houses damaged by fire.
Ohio – Belmont County Farm Bureau’s school backpack program focuses on the need for food for students on the weekend when school meals are not being provided. A total of 260 students are provided with food each week and the number continues to rise. Contributions from 189 donors totaled $43,972, which was used to purchase more than 10 tons of bulk ingredients.
Oklahoma – 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 – The “Farmers Care” program has donated nearly $1.2 million in food, cash, gift cards and other needed items to the five Ronald McDonald Houses in the Keystone State over the past two decades.
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.
The Big Picture
Farm Bureau members across the nation donate food, raise money and contribute volunteer hours to assist hungry Americans through the “Harvest for All” program. Since the launch of the program nearly two decades ago, Farm Bureau families have gathered 306 million pounds of food, logged more than 179,000 volunteer hours and raised $7.8 million in donations.
Farm Bureau members raised more than $237,000 in 2019 for Ronald McDonald House Charities and its network of local chapters to help provide families with a “home away from home” while their child receives medical treatment.
Collecting bandages for kids through Noah’s Bandage Project was a new Farm Bureau initiative started last year. More than 14,000 boxes of bandages were collected and the program is continuing in 2020.
Cyndie Shearing is director of communications at the American Farm Bureau Federation