PERRYDALE, Ore. — It was a windfall of good news this fall for Perrydale High School’s ag education and FFA programs.

In addition to celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Food For All drive benefiting families in need with a record collection of 350,000 pounds of food, the Perrydale FFA Chapter adviser, Christina Lorenz, recently brought home a national ag award and helped secure a substantial state-funded grant for the school’s ag education program.

Perrydale’s ag program was awarded $372,286 in Revitalization Grant funds from the Oregon Department of Education and fourth-year teacher Lorenz was awarded a Turn the Key Scholarship during the recent National Association of Agricultural Educators convention in Nashville.

The grant will be used to upgrade the school’s ag education program and Lorenz’s award is meant to be “a means of encouraging young teachers to remain in the profession and recognize their participation in professional activities,” according to the NAAE.

Perrydale’s iconic Food For All program has evolved into a concerted effort by the FFA students in all of the Lower Willamette FFA District — including Central, Dallas, Willamina, Sheridan, Perrydale, Amity, Dayton and Yamhill-Carlton high schools — in making a massive effort in gathering, packaging and distributing donated produce to needy families.

The vegetables and produce collected and distributed range from local rutabagas, beets, parsnips and other root vegetables to pears from the Hood River area, potatoes from Hermiston and even oranges and fruit from area distributors.

Food For All was begun in 1998 by former Perrydale FFA adviser Kirk Hutchinson with one donated tote of potatoes. In 2015, over 260,000 pounds were collected and last year the students collected and distributed 320,000 pounds.

All of Perrydale School District’s students, from preschool to 12th grade, participate in the Food For All program’s activities each year, Lorenz said. What they get out of the effort is much more than just a chance to do some hard work.

Students make about eight to 10 trips to reach out to partners prior to collection efforts, Lorenz said.

“The trips are beneficial for a number of reasons,” she said. “Students are getting out from a school environment and into a business setting and are able to see how those businesses operate and to make a sales pitch to them.

“They get to translate what they learn in the classroom to real life.”

Food For All works with community outreach groups to identify families in need and distribute 40- to 50-pound bags of food to them each year. Food banks, local organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, the Elks Club and churches that adopt families in need are all put into the distribution mix.

“This project is amazing in so many ways,” Lorenz said. “But the most obvious way is that it gives to families in need and teaches students to serve their communities and pay it forward.”

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