PERRYDALE, Ore. — The Perrydale High School FFA chapter’s 2019 Food For All program collected over 350,000 pounds of food for distribution to over 8,000 needy families throughout the Willamette Valley and the central coast.
The effort, now in its 21st year, is sponsored by the Lower Willamette FFA District, In addition to Perrydale, it includes Willamina, Dayton, Sheridan, Yamhill-Carlton, Central and Dallas. It is coordinated by Food For All program founder and retired Perrydale ag adviser Kirk Hutchinson and aided by Christina Griffin, Perrydale High’s FFA adviser.
Each year, Perrydale and the other Lower Willamette FFA District schools collect, package and deliver fruits and vegetables to help provide food to families in need throughout the Willamette Valley and central coast.
Hands-on activities for Food For All participants at Perrydale High School begin with the opening of the school year. The chapter’s student ambassadors reach out through letters, emails and in-person presentations to local farmers, packers and related businesses, soliciting donations of food.
The food is collected by the students, teachers and adult volunteers over two days in early December. It is packaged into donated totes full of family-sized food bundles of potatoes, pears, onions, apples, oranges, parsnips, beets, turnips, squash and other fresh produce. The packages are distributed through Dec. 23, said Aleyah Mauk, 16, the chapter’s vice president.
“Kindergartners through seniors here at the school help in this project,” Mauk said, from packaging the individual family bags to moving pallets and loading trucks. Any leftover food is donated to local food banks, she said.
Griffin said because of the limited space at Perrydale, she didn’t think they were going to be able to take in much more product than the 350,000 pounds collected.
Nothing is guaranteed in terms of food promised and food received for distribution. Hutchinson just smiled and said things usually work out. When a large donation of vegetables was scrubbed early in December, another commodity donation was boosted by the provider.
Food For All is becoming a well-oiled machine, he said.
“We’re getting more organized with more schools, being able to do more things,” Hutchinson said. “Northwest Farm Credit Services gave us a grant and we got our own labeled bags for the first time.”
The 1,000-pound-capacity cardboard totes were donated by a packing house in Clackamas, and a forklift was made available for moving them from the school to a delivery truck.
“We always like volunteers,” he said. “NW Farm Credit sent 20 staff from their Salem office to help us pack food for a day, and we have 20 different volunteers that do our trucking and our transportation for the 15 pickups and 40 deliveries of the packaged food.”