AMITY, Ore. — Perrydale High School FFA Chapter’s Food For All Program winds up this month with the lofty goal of distributing over 130 tons of locally collected agricultural produce to needy families in Oregon.
The program, now in its 19th year, was started by former long-time Perrydale FFA Chapter Adviser Kirk Hutchinson. It’s now headed by second-year adviser Christina Lorenz, but “Hutch” takes an active role in each year’s collection and distribution efforts.
Students from all of Perrydale’s three public schools help the high school FFA chapter’s members gather, package and distribute the donated vegetables and other produce — from onions to squash, beets and other items — to needy people up and down the Willamette Valley. The efforts extend to the central Oregon Coast and Eastern Oregon as well.
“Each year, I am beyond impressed with the pride that my students take in this project,” Lorenz said. “It’s inspiring to see that tomorrow’s leaders are selfless and generous people who want to make their world a better place for everyone.”
Lorenz is also Perrydale High’s agriculture curriculum instructor.
The busload of kids, accompanied by Hutch and a large flatbed truck, made stops at several donor plants and warehouses to collect food and chat with the businesses’ representatives during a collection stop on Dec. 1. The route wound up the Willamette Valley from Perrydale along Highway 99E through Salem, Canby and farther northeast.
Stops at places such as EZ Orchards and Schlecter Farms were intended to introduce the FFA students to the donor’s plants and warehouses, watch the loading activities and chat with owners and managers.
EZ Orchards was the first stop, and the bus then headed up the corridor to NW Onion Co. in Brooks.
Duane Olson, NW Onion’s sales manager, had a big grin on his face and was clearly enjoying giving away 400 sacks (10 tons) of yellow onions to the FFA program’s “ambassadors” that gathered at the company’s warehouse.
Both Kevin Zielinski, Olson and principals of the other warehouse stops along the way received an FFA award “For Outstanding Service and Contributions” from Perrydale FFA Chapter President Sierra Starr and handshakes from all the kids.
“This project allows students build valuable partnerships with business and industry professionals, which leads to a strong professional network upon graduation,” Lorenz said. “(The project) also allows them to build employability skills while serving their community.”
Food For All gathered one tote of potatoes from Salem’s Kettle Foods when the program began in 1998. Since then, totals have risen each year from 10,000 pounds of food to 211,000 pounds in 2010 and over 260,000 pounds last year.