COLUMBIA, Mo. — 4-H clubs across Missouri have finished their 5th year of the annual 4-H Feeding Missouri initiative. Each year, 4-H Feeding Missouri partners with Feeding Missouri and Missouri Farmers Care’s Drive to Feed Kids to bring awareness and raise resources addressing food insecurity.
Last fall, during MU’s Extension and Engagement Week, 4-H challenged participants to find ways to partner with 4-H’ers across the state to fight hunger. From January through April, 4-H’ers across the state participated in a friendly competition to raise the most meals for local families. They held food drives, fundraisers, volunteered their service and provided education and outreach activities. Through these efforts 4-H members successfully secured 711,268 meals this year for food insecure Missourians, bringing the five-year cumulative total to 1,723,331 meals.
“I am so proud of the work 4-H and MU Extension have done to fight food insecurity,” said Lupita Fabregas, Director of Missouri 4-H. “Our goal is to help Missourians through service-learning programs and 4-H Feeding Missouri is a great example of our success.”
For the third year, 4-H clubs could apply for matching mini-grants through a donation from Missouri Farmers Care Foundation (MFCF). Over $4,000 was awarded to 17 Missouri 4-H clubs to help further their efforts during the drive. To add an educational component to the grants, many youth spoke about food insecurity and promoted their food drives in their schools and to local organizations. Clubs were creative in their efforts, some groups provided birthday boxes to their local pantries, while others built and filled their own mini–Blessing Boxes that their clubs will keep stocked through the year.
4-H Feeding Missouri campaign proceeds go directly to Feeding Missouri, a coalition of the state’s six major food banks that provides hunger relief through a network of more than 1,500 community-based food programs in every county and the city of St. Louis.
“The need for food assistance has reached levels higher than prior to the pandemic. There are families in every county across the state that aren’t sure where their next meal will come from. Our neighbors continue to experience the challenges of rising food prices and transportation,” says Heather Hargrove, Executive Director of Feeding Missouri. “Missouri’s food banks rely on partnerships like these to help raise critical awareness, funds and food to help provide access to nutritious foods for the growing number of seniors, children and families in need. These efforts will directly impact the communities most affected by these challenging times – especially in rural communities where the need continues to be significant. Partnerships like this demonstrate the power a few can have on the many, and we are very grateful for their continued support and commitment.”
During a virtual event on May 31 celebrating the drive’s success, Moniteau County 4-H members were recognized for raising 51,459 meals, the most of any Missouri county for the second year in a row. In recognition of their effort, Moniteau County 4-H’ers will have receive a small stipend to help them kick off next year’s event and will be showcased in Missouri 4-H’s outreach for the 2024 4-H Feeding Missouri Campaign.
Missouri Farmers Care Foundation’s Drive to Feed Kids continues food security efforts throughout the summer. Food banks consistently report that protein is the most requested item for families. Through the partnership’s Hogs for Hunger initiative, swine exhibitors are invited to commit pigs to feed neighbors in need. Up to 50 pigs will be accepted at the Missouri State Fair with Feeding Missouri providing reimbursement of $0.80 per pound live weight for committed hogs. Missouri Farmers Care Foundation will cover processing of these hogs. MFCF asks State Fair exhibitors to indicate their commitment at www.MOFarmersCare.com/drive.
“Missouri youth are building a stronger future for their peers through 4-H Feeding Missouri and the Drive to Feed Kids,” said Ashley McCarty, executive director of Missouri Farmers Care Foundation. “It is fulfilling to see the heart of agriculture expressed by Missouri youth donating much needed food to make a difference in the lives of our neighbors, over 1.1 million Missourians facing food insecurity.”
— Missouri Farmers Care Foundation