It was a sight to behold: A hundred or so youngsters, hairnet and gloves-attired, in a production line operation to make GM or Ford proud, swiftly assembling food packages for distribution to needy in the tri-state area of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas.
All members of FFA chapters, they volunteered to spend a Saturday morning at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show, contributing youthful energy and enthusiasm to help those less fortunate through the Farm Show Feeds outreach arm of the 64 year-old show.
In the space of a few hours, they packaged over 40,000 meals, more than quadrupling the 10,000 done in 2013, when the effort first began.
“It was downright inspirational,” said one of the several farmers and other adults who stopped by to watch or to pitch in with the packaging. “What an outstanding group of young men and women. Their parents, their schools, and their communities can be proud of them.”
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In this age of McMansions and seeming affluence at every hand, we often lose sight of the reality that our region still has a higher than national average of poverty and food-insecure households. For the U.S., in 2014, the average was 14.3 percent; in Mississippi, it was 22 percent; Arkansas, 19.9 percent; and Tennessee, 16.3 percent.
A significant percent of those are households with children. In 2013, Mississippi and Arkansas were in the top five states with food-insecure children under age 18. Mississippi, at 29 percent, was second only to the District of Columbia, with 31 percent. Although lack of adequate nutrition is harmful to anyone, it can be particularly detrimental to young children because of the potential for long term developmental consequences.
“Those of us who have been incredibly blessed with comfortable lives and plentiful food shouldn’t lose sight of those in need,” said one of the farmers who helped with the packaging effort and made a generous donation.
A little money will buy a lot: $25 will purchase 100 meals, $125 will buy 500, and $250 will buy 1,000. The FFAers want to top 50,000 at next year’s show.
My check’s in the mail. If you want to help, too, mail yours to: Mid-South Farm and Gin Show Farm Show Feeds, 874 Cotton Gin Place, Memphis TN 38106.