Yelm FFA last month donated about 1,470 pounds of fresh produce grown by Yelm students and the community to Faith Harvest Helpers, a local food bank.
The effort was organized by the club’s community service committee, said FFA president and Yelm High School senior Sheridan Lantz, 17. Last year, they saw the national FFA had grants available for growing food for hungry people.
Yelm FFA applied for a grant and received $2,500 to pay for 12 raised garden beds, seeds and watering equipment to grow a variety of produce, including corn, squash, beets, radishes, beans, carrots, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes.
In addition, the students spearheaded an outreach campaign called “Plant Another Row.” The campaign encourages people in the community who are already growing fresh produce in their gardens to plant an extra row of produce that can be donated to local food banks.
“We really wanted our community to know what we are doing and we wanted to reach out to them to say, ‘Hey, could you help us out as well to donate to local food banks?’” Lantz said.
Several classes at Yelm High School participated in the project. FFA Advisor Dusti Nash estimated between 250 and 300 Yelm High School students contributed to the effort.
Students also distributed seeds during the Hop for Hunger event held earlier this year, encouraging people to plant them and donate the yield to a food bank. Students handed seeds out to about 40 people, and about 20 of them have donated the resulting produce, Nash said. She encourages any remaining gardeners to donate their harvest. If they need help getting their donation to the food bank, they can call Yelm FFA for help at 360-458-2965, she said.
Fresh produce provides more nutrients to food bank customers, said FFA treasurer and Yelm High School junior Calli Hyder, 16.
It could help put a dent in the country’s so-called obesity epidemic, added Lantz.
“I feel that if we don’t have that many preservative foods and actually get it locally and organically that you can … (have) a healthier lifestyle,” she said.
“And it just tastes so much better,” Hyder added.
The students hope to apply for and receive grant money next year, using it to expand the program to local elementary and middle schools.