I have a few passions that really define who I and remind me of why I became a teacher. In the past three years one of those has really motivate me to do more for my community and the young people in it. I went on my first cruise to Mexico in 2009. As I was riding the bus in Progresso to one of our excursions I witnessed poverty like I had never seen. The landscape was bare; no usable soil to speak of. A kitchen in this community was a fire pit in the backyard with whole chickens hanging for all the flies to munch on. I couldn't believe that on my vacation I was driven past these places. And I realized how lucky I am to live in a state and town where this is so evident and our agriculture community is so productive. I knew when I went home and the school year began that the site of children living in these conditions would change how I addressed everything I did.I knew I had to try to make a difference.
On the following Monday I drove to West Memphis to pick up my students who had attended Washington Leadership Conference. Becca and Ashley got into the vehicle and immediately began to tell me how their lives were changed by their experience at the hunger banquet held at WLC. They were literally in tears while sharing how they felt when they realized that so many children and adults go hungry for days. Their passion for this effort began the same week that mine did. I knew God had played a part in us having that experience at the same time and knowing that we must make a change for our children. What sealed the deal was when a representative from Mission Outreach called me the next day and said someone had mentioned that we wanted to serve a meal at the Mission and asked if we could come the following Monday. The pieces had fallen into place. Within weeks Becca, Ashley, and I were meeting with some board members from Mission Outreach and sharing our experiences and our newly found passion. From there this endeavor has only grown. For the past two years our FFA members have presented Hunger Banquets to over 500 students and 200 adults. We have participated in food drives, made donations to the mission and our school pantry, and visited with community members about this problem.
But this is just the beginning. Arkansas leads the US in the number of children hungry at 24%. That is so sad. It's not really anyone's fault and there are so many people trying to help. But how do we know what we are doing is enough? In Greene County the number of hungry people is 18% of the population. This is over 7000 people! Likely someone near you is food insecure. Are we are all personally doing something to help?
Our FFA Chapter has received a $5000 grant from Youth Service America and the Sodexo Foundation to raise awareness and make a difference in our community addressing childhood hunger. Our students are going to participate in a service learning semester and work hard to bring awareness and create change right here in Greene County. These kids are truly concerned about the future of other kids here and elsewhere in the world. They will investigate the problem, devise some solutions, put their plans into action, reflect on their actions, and then celebrate their successes. I know how determined they are to do this and look forward to facilitating this program. I only hope others will join the cause and help us put an end to childhood hunger