Generally, this blog is devoted to issues affecting farmers and farming communities. This time, we’re tackling an issue that affects more than 49 million Americans each year. In the following guest post, Ryan Klassy, information director, Kane County Farm Bureau, will tell you how the Kane County Farm Bureau celebrated its 100th year by challenging members to reach a major hunger relief goal to help local families in need.
Here at the Kane County Farm Bureau, located in St. Charles, about 35 miles west of Chicago, we just wrapped up a year of events for our 100th year with a benefit dinner at the Northern Illinois Food Bank. Not only was the Sept. 13 event a culmination of our centennial activities, it also provided the perfect venue to announce another major milestone – the equivalent of over 1 million meals in cumulative hunger relief provided to local food pantries!
Hunger relief has always been important to the association, with efforts dating back to World War I era drives to collect food for starving people in Europe and Asia. In the last decade, thousands of dollars in food have been raised through an annual shopping spree, food drives and more recently through a Harvest for ALL program designed so farmers can donate proceeds from their fall harvest to the food pantry of their choice.
So, in December of 2012, the KCFB Board of Directors saw that the number of meals provided through recent KCFB hunger relief efforts was over 700,000 (based on the Northern Illinois Food Bank’s ability to turn $1 into 6 meals). That’s when they decided to issue the Million Meal Challenge. And boy did our members respond!
The goal was to reach 1 million meals by December of 2013, the end of our 100th year. Donations poured in from farmers, Ag businesses, member donations from ticket sales at our June member appreciation picnic, and food drives. Lots of people who couldn’t attend our grand finale event in September RSVP’d to say, “I can’t make it, but here’s a donation.” So cool.
When ticket sales were tallied, those who did attend the Centennial Celebration learned that we had eclipsed our goal – with pledges and donations totaling 1,016,908 meals. And the best thing is that donations continue to come in. Our total is at 1,051,990 meals as of Sept. 26 with more donations from the fall harvest right around the corner.
It was perfect to be able to announce the milestone at the Food Bank, one of the largest beneficiaries of our members’ contributions.
To me, the accomplishment embodies much of what farmers are all about, here in Kane County, across the state, and throughout our country. Community, hard work, helping others, and making the best of things even in bad times – in this case an economic downturn that left a lot of families without the ability to put three square meals on the table.
Like a farmer lending a hand to harvest a sick neighbor’s crops or put a roof on a storm damaged barn, achieving our Million Meal Challenge is not the end of the story, but part of a continuing effort to be an outstanding member of the community.
Speaking of community, I invite you to visit kanecfb.com, or the Kane County Farm Bureau Facebook page, to check out a new video that chronicles our first 100 years. No matter where you reside, it’s an interesting look at the early days of Farm Bureau and how things have changed in the last century.