AMES, Iowa – When Iowa’s State 4-H Council members began their statewide food drive, their original goal was to collect 10,000 nonperishable food items. However, Iowans across the state helped the group more than double their goal by collecting and donating 21,771 food items in seven weeks. The food items will be donated to local food pantries, churches and places in need during this holiday season.
This statewide food drive was initiated and facilitated by all 40 members of the State 4-H Council from Nov. 2 through Dec. 18, said Haley Jones, 4-H youth program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. The youth council members used their communication and leadership skills to engage all 100 ISU Extension and Outreach county offices across the state in the effort.
Austen David, state council member from Taylor County, took the food drive effort to her local school. “Taking the food drive effort to the school was the perfect opportunity to educate and make known the large need for donated food in our town. Our elementary school had a ‘tallest tree challenge.’ It provided friendly competition, holiday spirit and knowledge of the need. This went over very well, and the students were very involved,” David said.
Council members wanted to ensure that local food pantries were full during the holiday season. According to Feeding America, one in seven children in Iowa struggle with hunger.
Smaller neighborhoods, such as the Farmington community in southeast Iowa, benefitted from this food drive effort.
“The 4-H food drive has increased awareness of the need to support food pantries in our area. The Van Buren County donations went to the Farmington Food Pantry, which has seen a large increase in usage this year. They served 105 families for Thanksgiving and just this past week they served 52 families. I am impressed that the small population of our county could come together and donate over 1,000 items for the 4-H food drive,” stated Josiah Westercamp, council member from Van Buren County.
Through promotional videos, social media posts and word of mouth, council members worked with county extension staff to engage their communities in this effort. Weekly food totals from counties were recorded by council members throughout the seven-week initiative.
“When you advocate for an initiative, see it happen and successfully meet your goal, you can’t help but feel a sense of achievement within your team,” said Holly Schmitt, council member from Winneshiek County. “The food drive has given our state council a sense of purpose in the state and it has given individual members opportunities to grow in their marketing, communication and leadership skills. This initiative has also helped each council member see the needs their communities have, whether that be in food donations or other acts of service, helping our group of 4-H’ers to create a lasting impact in our clubs, communities, country and world.”
Iowa’s State 4-H Council is a group of 40 energetic and positive high school 4-H students who serve as ambassadors for the Iowa 4-H program, Jones said. Council members also plan the annual Iowa 4-H Youth Conference and 4-H’ers for 4-H campaign, participate in professional development opportunities, and gain valuable leadership and communication skills through quarterly retreats.
To learn more about the State 4-H Council or the Iowa 4-H program, visit https://www.extension.iastate.edu/4h/.
Caption, upper photo: [Download photo] State 4-H Council members (L-R) Hannah Lanphere, Kelsie Kinne and Cecelia Hill, along with Dennis Johnson, Worth County extension director, pose with food items donated for the MANNA food pantry in Worth County.
Caption, lower photo: [Download photo] State 4-H Council member Josiah Westercamp shows a delivery of food donations for a local food pantry in Van Buren County.