A series of messages were sent back and forth between the 14 member team of students. From their locations in separate parts of the state, officers contemplated how to respond to the need from the storm but also to do it in a way that aligned with the beliefs of the organization. A partnership with the New York Farm Bureau triggered in a plan that would not only respond to needs of those displaced and set back by Hurricane Sandy, but also bring awareness to a real issue that exists in every part of the state at every time of the year. Farm Bureau annually collects donations for regional food banks through the Harvest for All project. Understanding the role food banks play in responding to food emergencies, state officers decided to help direct FFA members wanting to respond after the hurricane to do so through agriculture. In addition to supporting the New York Farm Bureau’s Harvest for All efforts, however, officers added a component to their challenge – education.
The Food Insecurity Challenge asks schools to do three things: 1, educate themselves about the variables that contribute to food insecurity and specifically how food banks help to provide people with access to affordable food; 2, take the stigma off of services and programs that exist to help alleviate food insecurity by educating their schools about why it exists and the real demographics of hunger in New York; and 3, launch a campaign within their schools and communities to collect donations for regional food banks in New York State.
Over the course of a weekend, New York State Officers developed the project, created a script and a story board and recorded pieces of a video to launch the project. Officers worked in their bedrooms, hallways and dormitories from hundreds of miles apart to complete the project, together. After using partner organizations for feedback, they launched the project through social media and agricultural education networks on Tuesday, November 6.
“I’ve never been so proud of a project in my life,” said New York State Sentinel, Kaylin Broadwell. Broadwell is an FFA member from Hamilton, NY and currently studies agricultural communications at SUNY Cobleskill. She acted as the hub for all media and put the project together in her college dorm room, but doesn’t claim responsibility for the project. “It was a team effort. Like we say in the video, we’ve got to see that this is happening, recognize that it’s a problem and say it’s not okay. We hope that the video gets members thinking about the reality of food insecurity and gets them to do something to change the way people think about hunger.”
“We believe a lot of things about hunger,” District 6 President, Ashley Willits states in the video. “That it only happens to lazy people. That it only happens to people without jobs. That it only happens to people in big cities – and that there’s nothing we can do about it.” Willits is a junior at Lowville Academy in upstate NY and was eager to help develop the script for the video. “We want to take the stigma off hunger… until we make people realize that there is no shame in being hungry, we keep ignoring the people who need agriculture the most.”
The Food Insecurity Challenge is designed to engage all people in the reality of the issues of hunger all around them and to respond to the short-term needs of people following Hurricane Sandy – but it has the bigger goal of restructuring the way people think about hunger and to engage young people, long term, in finding solutions for hunger. “It has to be more than just a bake sale,” State Secretary Leann Green, a student at SUNY Cobleskill states. “It’s more than just a can drive. We want people to understand why food insecurity exists and to realize they can do something about it.”