Drive to Feed Kids exceeds expectations in its 2021 hunger-relief campaign

After activities were curbed due to COVID-19 last year, the 2021 Missouri Farmers Care (MFC) Drive to Feed Kids campaign came back in fullDrive To Feed KidsFans at the Hank Williams Jr. concert, which closed out the Missouri State Fair on Aug. 21, react enthusiastically as Jeff Houts, Missouri Farmers Care chairman, announces that this year’s Drive to Feed Kids raised resources for 2,015,088 meals. force, raising enough resources for a record-setting 2,015,088 meals to help feed hungry children across the state.

“Over 10 years ago, the leadership of Missouri Farmers Care saw there was a gap between the hard work of our farmers and ranchers producing food year-round for con­sumers and what ended up on Missourians’ dinner tables,” said MFC Executive Director Ashley McCarty. “They felt called to fill in that gap on behalf of those who couldn’t do anything to change their situation. Out of that effort evolved the Drive to Feed Kids.”

According to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, 13.8% of Missourians were considered food insecure in 2021. Among children, that number is even higher—15%.

“There are thousands of hard-working Missourians who can’t make ends meet and don’t have enough to feed their families. That’s just a reality in Missouri,” said Scott Baker, director of Feeding Missouri, an association of the state’s six regional food banks. “However, another reality is the heart and commitment of Missouri’s farmers to do all they can to help neighbors in need. The impact of the Drive to Feed Kids campaign is substantial, and we are truly grateful.”

This past year, the program benefited from several key partnerships and programs, culminating with activities at the Missouri State Fair:

  • On Aug. 17, more than 700 Missouri FFA Association members and agricultural leaders came together at the fair to pack 203,544 family meals for the Missouri FFA Food Insecurity Day. They exceeded the ambitious goal of 200,000 meals in honor of the state’s bicentennial.
  • Gov. Mike Parson and First Lady Teresa Parson, along with Missouri elected officials and agricultural leaders, joined the cause on Aug. 19, packing 500 share boxes at the State Fair to provide nourishment to central Missou­ri families in need.
  • The Hogs for Hunger program connected Missouri pig farmers, 4-H and FFA exhibitors to meat processors and local food banks. More than 900 pounds of ground pork was provided by Missouri State Fair swine exhibitors, and a partnership with Feeding Missouri has contributed an additional 205,883 pounds of high-quality protein to all six regional food banks. Missouri pig farmers can still donate to their local food bank through this program. Missouri Farmers Care Foundation will reimburse $1 per pound donated to cover processing fees.
  • Missouri 4-H members donated 356,665 meals during their hunger-relief campaign that ran January through April 2021, and they packed an additional 500 meal boxes for veterans at the Missouri State Fair.
  • Fairgoers participated by bringing non-perishable food items and monetary donations for the Missouri Farmers Care Food Drive on $2 Tuesday at the Fair. Through these activities and a generous canned food donation by Woods Supermarket, more than 10,000 pounds of non-perishable food was donated to local pantries. In addition, Missouri FFA donated fresh produce from FFA student projects on display at the fair.

MFA Incorporated is among industry sponsors of Missouri Farmers Care’s Drive to Feed Kids. To learn more, visit MOFarmersCare.com/drive.

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Harvest kicks off with a Sonny perspective

In September, Central Missouri Agri Service (CMAS) held its traditional har­vest kickoff in Marshall, Mo., with a special guest, formerSonnyPerdue CMASCMAS General Manager John Fletcher, right, introduced area farmers to Sonny Perdue before the former Secretary of Agriculture took the stage. Secretary of Agri­culture Sonny Perdue, addressing the crowd. CMAS general manager John Fletcher said the spirit of the event is to get the farming community face-to-face for an opportunity to meet vendors, talk about the upcoming harvest and enjoy a good meal. “And this year, we included a fun speaker,” said Fletcher. “I got to know Sonny back in the ’80s when we were both on the National Grain and Feed Association board. And we’ve stayed in touch. It’s good to hear from some­one who brings a wide perspective.”

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MU’s Center for Regenerative Agriculture offers new web resources

In August, the University of Missouri’s Center for Regenerative Agriculture introduced a new website that offers a comprehensive toolbox of practices to increase soil health, protect water quality and enhance conservation approaches on farms.

The center, operated by MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, is the first of its kind in the Midwest. It was formed earlier this year to foster faculty and student collaboration and create a focal point for research in areas such as soil health and biodiversity, conservation practices and overall sustainability and profitability on working farms and ranches.

The goal of the center’s new website is to allow farmers, landowners, farm advisors and even consumers to access a wide range of information on regenerative agriculture prac­tices and concepts, according to Rob Myers, adjunct associ­ate professor in MU’s Division of Plant Sciences and faculty director for the center.

“We’ve included guidance on getting started with regener­ative approaches and organized over 100 resources in terms of publications and videos that provide additional insights on these topics,” Myers said.

The Missouri Department of Conservation provided initial funding for the center to look at how conservation approach­es work together to create diverse farming landscapes and provide both economic and environmental impacts for land­owners. For example, the center is currently collaborating on a $10 million proposal to study cover crops for farmers.

Adam Jones, MFA Incorporated’s natural resources conser­vation specialist, serves on the center’s advisory committee as its agribusiness representative. That 13-member committee also includes farmers, faculty, government agency and com­modity organization leaders.

“In planning the center, we gathered input from a variety of groups, including Missouri producers, some of whom will remain involved with the center on an advisory committee,” Myers said. “We have nearly 20 faculty at the University of Missouri who have expressed interest in participating with this new center, and I expect the number of internal and external partners to expand as activities get underway.”

For more information, visit the Center for Regenerative Agriculture online at cra.missouri.edu.

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