Courtesy of Oregon FFA Foundation
As the holiday season descends upon us, most people get to over indulge in creamy mashed potatoes, savory turkey, and delectable desserts.
But for many Oregonians, the holidays are more famine than feast as numerous residents struggle to provide food for themselves and their families.
Since 2008 the Oregon Food Bank has seen the demand for emergency food boxes increase by 40 percent. It is for that reason agriculture students across Oregon want to help feed those that need it most.
In the spirit of the holiday season, the Oregon FFA partnered with Les Schwab Tire Centers, Wilco Coop, Capital Press and the East Oregonian newspaper to help combat hunger. The initial goal of raising 250,000 pounds of food in 2015 seemed daunting but the more than 6,000 FFA members from over 100 chapters and Les Schwab Tire Centers across Oregon made great strides to help provide the Oregon Food Bank and other local food pantries with much needed food.
This year the Drive Away Hunger Event collected over 510,150 pounds of food, double the original goal, and enough to provide more than 380,000 meals. Over the past three years, the event has raised over 1.5 million pounds of food for those suffering from food insecurity, enough food to help nearly 3500 Oregon families for more than a month.
The efforts to collect the food were as diverse as the communities themselves.
In Adrian, students gleaned farm fields after harvest to collect much needed produce as well as held a class competition, all of which helped collect over 7 tons of food. Some chapters focused on working with local farmers, like Jefferson FFA, who partnered with Case Farms, who donated more than 20,000 pounds of winter squash.
Other chapters, like Canby FFA, hit the streets and went door-to-door dropping off collection bags in a trick or treat for cans.
In Prineville, where Les Schwab Tires first began, the FFA chapter raised a crop of potatoes and was able to donate over 9,000 pounds to the local food banks.
“The FFA thanks all the farmers, community members and everyone who brought food, donated time and helped give to this effort.” remarked Kevin White, executive director of the Oregon FFA Foundation.
In addition to local chapter efforts, people were encouraged to drop food off at any local Les Schwab store, and collection bags were distributed by the Capital Press, the East Oregonian, Hermiston Herald, Blue Mountain Eagle, and the Wallowa Chieftain.
Bags were also available at Oregon Les Schwab and Wilco locations. Most of the food will be distributed by the Oregon Food Bank network and end up back in the communities in which it was raised.
This is a very special project for the Oregon FFA, where members were given the chance to embody the FFA motto of “…learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live and living to serve. In this hunger initiative, FFA members set an example of service leadership”, said White. “It is essential for these young people to have a partner like Les Schwab. Les Schwab employees have, for decades, served as role models to our members by serving their communities and neighbors.”
The Oregon FFA is part of the National FFA Organization and is a national youth organization of 653,359 student members — all preparing for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture. There are 8,568 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Oregon FFA has more than 6,000 members in 105 chapters throughout the state. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.