When Category 4 Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast as the most powerful storm to hit the mainland United States in over a decade, it did not take long for Amanda Bell to spring into action. She recognizes, understands, and does something about supplying food to those in need.
Bell loaded up a 36-foot horse trailer full of supplies for both animals and people and hauled it all the way to the hard-hit areas of Texas after Harvey decimated many parts of the coast. “It wasn’t just me —there were people coming from all over the country, bringing relief supplies to those impacted by the hurricane. I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for people and animals when things don’t go their way. I just felt like I had to do something.”
That may be the reason Bell has volunteered each year to be the boots-on-the-ground driving force behind the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show’s “Farm Show Feeds” event since its inception. Last year nearly 50,000 meals were packaged and shipped to the Memphis Food Bank, so they could be directed to food-deprived areas around the Mid-South.
Tim Price, executive director of Southern Cotton Ginners Association (SCGA), understands the impact this once-a-year event has all year long. “It may be hard for some people to grasp the importance of an event like this, but it literally places food in the hands of people in areas of the Mid-South known as ‘food deserts.’ I thank and applaud Amanda for everything she does to make this event successful. She keeps everyone motivated and focused.”
MISSION: TO CHANGE LIVES
Food deserts are defined as parts of the country where people live but do not have access to fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthy whole foods. These areas exist due to the lack of grocery stores, farmers markets, or healthy food providers.
The Food Bank was established in 1981 and is a member of “Feeding America,” a national network of food banks. “Our mission is to change lives by eliminating hunger in the Mid-South,” explains Andrew Bell, marketing manager of the Mid-South Food Bank. “We serve 31 counties across the Mid-South region.”
According to Estella H. Mayhue-Greer, president and CEO of the Memphis Food Bank, the food insecurity rate for Mid-South residents remains at almost 20 percent, despite the upturn in the current economy. “One third of that 20 percent are children who are food insecure,” she says. “The food insecurity rate among seniors has also increased.”
Another problem with food deserts is that the foods that are readily available consist mostly of processed foods extremely high in sodium and/or sugar, which are often associated with obesity.
Through the Memphis Food Bank, their partnering agencies, and events like “Farm Show Feeds,” the Memphis Food Bank provides an equivalent of 36,000 meals per day to supplement families who rely on government programs, or have meager grocery budgets.
A FRIENDLY COMPETITION
In 2018, eight Tennessee FFA Chapter members drove into Memphis, arriving at the Cook Convention Center in time to grab a little breakfast, listen to instructions by Bell and others on how to properly and safely package the ingredients going into the boxes, and then they got busy!
“These FFA members should be commended for giving up a day of their weekend to help others,” says Bell. “We always turn the multi-production line event into a friendly competition, so everyone will have fun participating.”
When you attend this year’s Mid-South Farm and Gin Show, please be aware of the large group of FFA members walking around enjoying the show. They are also there to work! “I encourage everyone who walks by an FFA member to just tap them on the shoulder and offer a word or two of thanks for their efforts,” says Price.
The FFA organization has made a big impact on Amanda Bell’s life, and that impact is now being transferred to others through the efforts of another generation of Tennessee FFA members. “I would like to expand Farm Show Feeds to other Mid-South states,” says Bell. “We seem to have plenty of space within the Cook Convention Center, and with Mississippi and Arkansas FFA chapters so close, there’s no reason we can’t build on this effort and increase the number of food boxes we donate annually to make this an all-encompassing Mid-South cause.”
FFA NAME CHANGE
In 1988, FFA members voted to officially change the organization’s name to the National FFA Organization. They felt that name would more appropriately reflect the growing diversity and expanding opportunities presented to its members both inside and outside of agriculture.
“I believe this name change has made the organization stronger and more open to young adults who might be seeking a career path — whether that path leads them down the road to agriculture or some other profession,” says Bell.
No matter the road these FFA members choose to take, the National FFA Organization can take great pride in knowing that for one day each year, they have members who give to others less fortunate than themselves. “This is a cause that’s much bigger than the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show,” says Price. “The Farm Show Feeds event sustains life — and what greater cause could there be?”
If you would like to play a role in the annual Farm Show Feeds event, contact the Southern Cotton Ginners Association office at 901/947-3104. To volunteer your time for the Memphis Food Bank log on to http://www.midsouthfoodbank.org/volunteer.
The Mid-South Food Bank is located at 239 South Dudley, Memphis TN., 38014. Their phone number is 901/ 527-0841.