Missouri 4-H clubs reach food drive milestone

4H Drive to Feed Kids

4-H clubs across Missouri have raised more than three-quarters of a million meals to feed hungry families over the last three years.

The third annual 4-H Feeding Missouri food drive, in partnership with Missouri Farmers Care Drive to Feed Kids, ran from Jan. 1 through April 30. Even though COVID-19 limited in-person drives, fundraising, volunteer service, and education and outreach activities, 4-H clubs successfully secured 356,665 meals this year for hungry Missourians, bringing the three-year cumulative total to 756,049.

“Even in the midst of all the challenges around COVID-19, you stepped up and exceeded the number of meals raised last year,” said Marshall Stewart, University of Missouri vice chancellor for extension and engagement. “Missouri 4-H and their families pulled together to inspire people in your community to continue to donate.”

Missouri 4-H members contributed food, cash donations, and volunteer hours to help feed neighbors and raise awareness about food insecurity in Missouri.

This year, 4-H clubs could apply for matching mini-grants through a donation from Missouri Farmers Care Foundation. Almost $5,000 was awarded to 17 Missouri 4-H clubs to help further their local efforts during the drive. In Ste. Genevieve County, 4-H’ers divided grant dollars equally among three local food pantries.

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.

“One in five Missourians face hunger, and the needs of those who are food insecure are on the rise due to the impact of COVID-19,” said Scott Baker, Feeding Missouri state director.

At a virtual event on May 26 celebrating the drive’s success, Cass County 4-H members were recognized for raising 53,104 meals, the most of any Missouri county. In recognition of their effort, Cass County 4-H’ers will have an opportunity to participate in a leadership program later this year.

“The most important part of this drive was the work Missouri 4-H and their families did to raise awareness across the state about this important issue,” said Lupita Fabregas, director of the University of Missouri Extension 4-H Center for Youth Development. “We urge 4-H’ers to keep working with their local food pantries and to support the Drive to Feed Kids campaign later this year, as well as special efforts planned during this summer’s county and state fair season.”

To continue to help fight hunger in Missouri, Missouri Farmers Care Foundation’s Drive to Feed Kids invites pig farmers and swine exhibitors to donate pigs this summer through Hogs for Hunger. Pigs can be processed and donated locally, or up to 50 pigs will be accepted for donation at the Missouri State Fair. Missouri Farmers Care asks state fair exhibitors to indicate their willingness to donate their pigs by July 30 at this link.

“Food banks consistently report that protein is the most requested and hardest to procure the item,” said Ashley McCarty, executive director of Missouri Farmers Care. “It is fulfilling to see the heart of Missouri agriculture expressed by Missouri youth donating much-needed protein to hungry Missourians. These generous donations through Hogs for Hunger will make a difference in the lives of our neighbors, over 1.1 million Missourians facing food insecurity.”

The 2021 Drive to Feed Kids will culminate at the Missouri State Fair with various activities, including a meal box packing event in the 4-H building on Aug. 16. Fairgoers that day are welcome to stop by to view the exhibits and pack a box. Learn more about this event and the other Drive to Feed Kids activities at this link.