"Meating" the Need for Our Village

Farm kids providing high-quality protein in our food desert through meat, milk, and eggs. Raising animals, new hunger fighters, and hope.

Photo of Pearl
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Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

We were inspired to be changemakers when we saw a need in our community for healthy food and knew we could help. Our local food pantry is dedicated to helping those in need in our small town. We had worked with them on a school project and saw exactly what went into the monthly food distribution boxes. We put ourselves in the clients' shoes and realized that while they were receiving food, we could help make it better. Before we started, the protein in the boxes was be maybe a can of beans, peanut butter, or tuna fish. Being farm kids, we are used to raising our own food so we decided to start raising food for the food pantry clients. Home-raised, fresh chicken is now given at multiple food distributions each year along with lamb, goat, pork and beef when available.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

We providing access to high-quality food for our community. We live in a food desert and are 15 miles from the nearest grocery store. Much of the protein given at the food pantry is canned or processed and we wanted to help improve the quality of the protein available. Solving this problem matters because we believe that everyone should have access to quality food. The food pantry has not had to purchase any meat in three years since we started.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We gathered a group of our friends, wrote and received a received a grant for $2,500 to launch our project. With this money, we decided to focus on providing fresh chicken to the food pantry. Our original goal was to raise enough to distribute whole chickens to all food pantry clients three times a year, approximately 260 chickens. From there our project has grown and grown. After realizing low-income families may lack the tools to cook whole chicken, we reached out to others for help to create a safe cooking video and presented our idea to community organizations and asked for donations. We were then able to provide cooking pans and meat thermometers along with the meat. It was then we started to realize how great the need was. Since then, we have grown the project to provide meat in almost every monthly distribution. We have expanded to include a gallon of milk in every box as it's also a good source of protein, especially for the elderly and very young. We have made a $33,000 impact. We have plans to add eggs. We've trained hunger fighters statewide. We're Michigan 4-H members and recently started working with 4-H members in North Carolina to start similar projects.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

When someone gets involved in our project they need to be ready to work hard and to be rewarded in many ways. Many of those involved in our project are youth; we have joined with local 4-H and FFA members on our project. They help raise the chickens for the project. People involved are also hands-on at the food pantry. We volunteer monthly at the food pantry and help with the distribution of the meat and milk that we have donated. Participants in our project are also involved in talking with area businesses for support and area experts for help and guidance. We have become mentors ourselves. We have lead sessions at healthy living conferences and have also started an outreach project to help other youth impact their communities. Youth involved in our project may start out just going along with a club community service project, but end up invested in something larger than themselves.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

As farm kids, we have a special set of skills others don't. We are committed to changing lives in our community and beyond. We're passionate about healthy living and about the idea first voiced by one of our heroes, Norman Borlaug, who said, "Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world." Living in a rural food desert isn't easy, but we have the ability to raise food ourselves, we have the support of a great community, and we have the drive to work hard to make change. This isn't only about the meat, this is about empowering youth to be hunger fighters and building hope.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

We turned our original $2,500 grant into a $33,000 impact in our community, providing 7,384 pounds of meat and 554 gallons of milk. We have taken our one idea and have used it to learn and grow. We have immersed ourselves in the fight against hunger, by attending conferences focused on global food insecurity and healthy living. This project has opened our eyes to the many facets of being food insecure and we have brought more and more ideas back to our project. Our project has engaged over 150 youth. Local FFA and 4-H members help directly with our project. We have lead sessions and talked at conferences in multiple states, sharing our ideas and our project to encourage youth to get involved in their own communities. Our local food pantry clients, area businesses and organizations as well as experts in a variety of fields have all been part of this project and the list continues to grow.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

We are always thinking about what is next. Locally, we are working with the local FFA chapter to start a flock of laying hens to provide eggs to food pantry clients. Eggs are another excellent source of protein and they are expensive and hard to find in our town. We're also working locally on the mental health aspect of being food insecure. We'd like to bring more dignity to the food pantry experience and help make it a more positive experience for clients by giving them more control and choices at the food pantry. Outreach is another exciting part of our project. We're working on providing other youth with mini-grants to help jumpstart their projects in Michigan and North Carolina. We're adding a meat donation program at our county fair.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

Our community has been very supportive. Businesses have donated supplies and funding, community organizations have supported our efforts, and the local school and library have been open to hosting events. We have access to lots of youth to carry out our projects. Our needs continue to include funding and support. We would love to have a website to help us promote the project, solicit support, train other youth hunger fighters, allow them to apply for mini-grants, and show how to pilot a project. We'd also like to use technology to further educate food pantry clients about cooking and nutrition. We are also seeking guidance with how to better organize the business side of our project. We're ready to become a 501(c)(3), but need help.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

Our project has opened so many doors for us to work with and inspire others. We were only 12 years old when we started. We didn't have a lot of resources many think they need to make a difference. We used what resources and skills we had to start and it just grew from there. Being excited and passionate about our project helps us to involve others and our story helps others to see that it's OK to start with what you have. Our project has really made us feel like we are a part of our community. It has also made us feel like we are part of a global community of hunger fighters. Opportunities to help and inspire keep opening up to us and we try to reach out every chance we can, not only to involve others in our project but to encourage people our age to make change in their communities. We believe in the power of youth voice, of knowing our strengths, and sharing our passions. Pearl won a trip to Washington, DC, where she shared the "Meating" the Need concept with other youth. Addy was flown to North Carolina to give a keynote speech about the project to empower youth there to be changemakers in their communities. We both flew to Iowa to take part in a global hunger summit.

How did you hear about this challenge?

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Photo of Kathy Foerster

Congratulations on leveraging your unique strengths as farm kids into a project that fits your community’s needs perfectly. Your success in mobilizing your peers is especially impressive. Great work!

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