As I look back on the 2018 Missouri State Fair, this year will certainly be one to remember. I saw the best-of-the-best livestock and projects shown by Missouri’s youth.
In the Agriculture Building, Missourians learned about our No. 1 economic driver — agriculture. I saw many friends in agriculture and had the chance to spend time with my own family. But the most memorable event happened on Aug. 14, as Missourians came together to feed hungry children at the annual Drive to Feed Kids.
According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, 241,830 Missouri children are food insecure. That means 1 in 5 children don’t know where their next meal will come from. In rural communities, that statistic grows to 1 in 3. Missouri agriculture knows that number is too high, and it’s our mission at the Missouri Department of Agriculture to find solutions to childhood hunger. Food is the most basic human need and, as a farmer, I strive to fulfill my one purpose: feeding people.
Missouri Farmers Care launched its Drive to Feed Kids campaign last year in conjunction with the Missouri State Fair to showcase the state’s agriculture while fighting childhood hunger. Our committee was made up of some of the most influential and caring ag groups, such as Monsanto, Brownfield Ag News, Feeding Missouri, Missouri FFA, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Pork Association, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Grown and more. Our goal was no small feat: double the amount of meals packed in 2017.
RAISING FUNDS: The Drive to Feed Kids campaign not only packed meals, but also collected cans and money to donate to Feeding Missouri. Here Alan Wessler (right), Missouri Farmers Care chair, addresses a crowd gathered at the Missouri State Fair about food insecurity in the state. Missouri Farmers Care launched the Drive to Feed Kids effort last year. A group of ag industry partners joined Wessler to present Feeding Missouri with a check for $145,165.
In all, 680 Missouri FFA members traveled to the Missouri State Fairgrounds for its annual Food Insecurity Service Day to pack meals. Our strategy to double meals was instantly put in place by these students committed to serving their communities. There were plenty of attractions they could have seen at the fair.
Instead, they were serving Missouri. In the end, Missouri FFA packed 100,800 meals that were delivered immediately to Missouri’s six food banks.
The Drive to Feed Kids collected an impressive $145,000 that will go to Feeding Missouri, as well as thousands of pounds of canned food. To top things off, Gov. Mike Parson was joined by first lady Teresa Parson, elected officials and agriculture leaders on Aug. 16 to pack a combined 2,000 backpack meals for students in need. Now that’s leadership at work — showing that leaders at the highest levels are willing to roll up their sleeves to combat childhood hunger.
We hope the Drive to Feed Kids will have a lasting impact not just in hungry homes, but also in the hearts and minds of Missouri FFA members and agriculture leaders across the state. If we’ve created just a few more advocates motivated with a passion to feed more people in their own communities, we can consider the Drive to Feed Kids a resounding success.
Chinn is the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture and a hog producer from Clarence.