Fair, 4-H fight hunger

By Nicole Cooke

August 12, 2014

The Missouri State Fair is in the midst of its fourth annual food drive, which includes the large Canstruction project featuring the 4-H emblem in the Agriculture Building, in an effort to combat hunger in Missouri.

Fairgoers had the opportunity to help those in need and receive a small reward at the same time on Tuesday — those who donated a canned good received $1 off admission for the day. Donations are still being accepted throughout the fair, and combined with the nearly 5,000 cans used in the Canstruction project, the fair will hopefully collect as much food as possible for the Missouri Food Bank Association (MFBA). Nearly 32,800 cans were donated during last year’s fair.

“We really do love this event, not only because of the food that comes in, but just the opportunity to talk about hunger in Missouri, the prevalence of it, just raising awareness for this important issue,” said MFBA State Director Scott Baker. “We love this, as we go around the state during different times of the year, we point to events like this as to what it’s going to take to end hunger. It’s really going to take strong partnerships, creativity, all of the above to address this problem.”

Baker said the USDA has issued a report on hunger in America with two categories, low food security and very low food security, and Missouri ranks second in the nation in very low food security.

“We’ve experienced the highest growth in that category over the last 10 years,” Baker said. “So that speaks to a problem that isn’t going away any time soon. It’s much more prevalent than you might think and it’s something we continue to work on. The first step is awareness, helping people recognize the problem, right here in the middle of the Heartland.

“… It’s as bad in rural areas as it is in big cities. Our biggest challenges are in rural areas because of access and the stigma that can come with it.”

Throughout the past year, Missouri 4-H members were challenged to help in the fight against hunger by donating time, food and money to local and state organizations, as well as advocating for the cause.

“According to the Missouri Food Bank Association, more than one in five kids in Missouri do not have enough nutritious food to eat,” said 4-H Council President Trent Ludwig, of Linn. “As 4-H members we want to change this. … 161 clubs from over 50 counties carried out hunger fighting projects. Club members organized food drives, planted community gardens, collected items for local pantries, taught others how to stretch their food dollars further, and spoke with farmers about donating to the program. Together, 4-H members contributed 10,5000 hours to fighting hunger.”

“4-H is one of the largest youth programs in Missouri, and one in five youth are hungry or malnourished, so we wanted to help raise awareness and challenged our members to help end hunger,” said 4-H East Central Region Representative Laura Bardot, of Lonedell. “At our congress in Columbia, we recognized clubs and members that donated the most or contributed the most hours. We had a good feeling knowing we were helping out fellow 4-H members and other kids.”

The massive Canstruction project features the 4-H emblem inside the state of Missouri, and stands nearly 14 feet tall and more than 15 feet wide. Nearly 5,000 cans were donated for the project by Bing’s Grocery Stores of Sedalia. The exhibit was being designed and directed by PWArchitects Inc. and project engineer Patrick Earney, of Trabue, Hansen & Hinshaw Inc., both of Columbia.

For those fairgoers who left their canned goods at home but have an extra dollar in their pocket after buying a corn dog can still donate to the cause. For every $1 donated at the Missouri Farmers Care booth in the Ag Building, MFBA can provide seven meals.

“Farmers are really good at what they do in terms of producing food, and they also recognize there’s people in need, and I think stepping up to show support for those who aren’t as fortunate as others is a real important aspect of what farmers do on a daily basis,” said Missouri Farmers Care Chairman Don Nikodim. “That’s the key to this particular thing, we know there’s people who need help, these guys and gals are willing to step up and provide that.”