133 Meals Per Minute
Two years ago, the Missouri FFA Association began co-hosting an annual statewide food insecurity day at the Missouri State Fair to package meals for six food banks across the state. Mexico FFA members have participated in this event, as well as a similar one during the Washington Leadership Conference (WLC), which sparked an interest in making a difference within their home county.
Mexico FFA members and other students in the Mexico School District spent President’s Day this year packaging 20,000 meals for the Laura Miller George Help Center to distribute to families in need within Audrain County.
The food insecurity rate in Audrain County is a staggering 23%, and the Mexico School District has numerous students receiving free breakfast and lunch. Kendra Allen, Mexico FFA advisor, explained the need to the FFA members, which inspired them to help make sure other students and their families have food in the evenings and on weekends.
“The school is on a grant so all the elementary [students] up to eighth grade get a free breakfast and lunch,” Allen said. “For a lot of our kids, that’s what they eat in the day. Our chapter didn’t think that was right, so we wanted to help provide the Help Center with additional food so they could give it out a little more freely.”
The Mexico FFA officer team began seeking sponsors for the events in the summer of 2018. Funds donated by numerous local sponsors purchased the materials for the meals through the Meals of Hope program.
“The officer team got all the sponsors, and then we incorporated the middle school ag program and other organizations in the Mexico High School to help us,” Allen said. “The officer team raised enough money to package 20,000 meals!”
Twenty-five Mexico FFA members and nearly 50 other students and volunteers packaged the macaroni and cheese meals. Each included a soy protein packet, fortified noodles, and a cheese packet. The meals contained six servings, making it a large enough portion to feed a family.
All of the local sponsors were printed on t-shirts to recognize their contribution, but the sponsors contributing larger amounts were invited to the event to package meals with the students.
“The ones who came in thought it was a surreal deal,” Allen said. “They didn’t really understand what we were doing when we went and asked for the money at first. But, once they got their hands in there and were packaging meals, they thought it was really cool that we did it, and the kids really wanted to give back to the community.”
Allen described the event as an opportunity for the students to see a different side of each other as they worked in teams throughout the day. To package such a large number of meals in one day, the students had to reach outside their comfort zone. That allowed them to see the impact their hard work was making on their community in need.
“When we loaded all those meals onto the trailer and the trucks to be taken to the Help Center, I think it was a moment of ‘wow, I just helped these people for a couple of days,’” Allen said.
Allen believes the experience opened the eyes of her students, encouraging them to be more supportive of their community members and peers.
While it might have taken only a few hours out of the students’ day off of school, their hard work and inspired hearts made a huge difference within Audrain County. With the support of the Mexico community and the driven mindset of FFA members, the chapter has intentions of making this an annual event.
—by Julie Choate