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Food drive at HHD helps fight rural hunger

Event shines a light on food insecurity by collecting items for those in need.

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist

August 31, 2023

2 Min Read
Boxes of overflowing cans donated by FFA members
PILE IT UP: Boxes are filled to overflowing with cans donated by FFA members during the Heartland United Way food drive at Husker Harvest Days.Farm Progress

Each year, FFA members from across the state bring food donations to Husker Harvest Days as part of Heartland United Way’s food drive. It provides a way to shine a spotlight on food insecurity in rural communities.

“The food collected is so important to local backpack programs, shelter meal providers and local food pantries to help ensure people have access to food,” says Karen Rathke, president of Heartland United Way.

“Unfortunately, for too many people, the next meal is not a guarantee, and there is nothing more heartbreaking than a child who is hungry,” she adds.

“At Informa, we are committed to creating a world free of hunger,” says Matt Jungmann, Farm Progress national events director. “Husker Harvest Days offers us the opportunity to start that process locally in the state of Nebraska. We are honored to partner with the United Way and FFA members from across the state to serve the food insecure in rural America.”

The food drive gives Husker Harvest Days visitors a chance to donate nonperishable food items before entering the show gates.

FFA members who donate Sept. 13, the second day of the show, receive free entry.

Students must bring a minimum of five nonperishable food items. Donations are taken at the bus entrance on the southwest corner of the showgrounds.

The food is weighed, sorted and loaded onto a truck. It is later distributed to shelters, food pantries and backpack programs throughout the Grand Island area.

Individuals are encouraged to bring:

  • proteins like canned chicken, tuna and peanut butter

  • meal prep items such as Tuna Helper, pasta and soups

The food drive extends beyond Husker Harvest Days. Local food drives at collection sites at grocery stores such as Super Saver, Hy-Vee, and Hometown Market (St. Paul), throughout Hall, Hamilton, Merrick and Howard counties also take place show week. Shoppers can also buy meals to donate.

“Some grocers will pre-bag $5 worth of groceries. The items are preselected to meet the needs of the area,” Rathke says. “With backpack programs, it’s so important families get food they can prepare easily, or even children can prepare for them. We pick it up, so people can pay for it but don’t need to take it anywhere to donate.”

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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