N.C. 4-H’ers take action to stop the hidden problem of local hunger

Date posted: July 23, 2010

4-H's Hungry to Help ProjectPhoto by Marc HallParticipants worked quickly to repackage 37,900 pounds of food in a single morning.

4-H’ers attending State 4-H Congress in July in Raleigh committed to an ambitious goal of collecting 1 million pounds of food for North Carolina’s food banks as part of a campaign called Hungry to Help.

Conducted in partnership with the Food Banks of North Carolina, the campaign is designed to promote awareness of hunger in North Carolina and to help stop it. To get started, 350 4-H’ers gathered at Dorton Arena at the State Fairgrounds July 21 to repackage 37,900 pounds of pasta from massive containers into smaller, family-sized portions.

Later in the day, sitting down to a traditional Congress luncheon, they didn’t get the usual box lunch or chicken-and-two-vegetables plate. Instead, to drive home their commitment to relieving hunger, they got a bowl of rice and water.

After they’d had a chance to partake, 4-H’er Ann Margaret Dietrich of Wake County asked them, “How many of you are still hungry?” When hands went up, she told them not to worry.

“We have more food for you,” she said, “but we wanted you to think about what most of us take for granted daily – food and clean water.”

Speaking at a banquet the previous night, Clyde Fitzgerald of the Second Harvest Food Bank of North Carolina, told the 4-H’ers that people who think hunger isn’t a problem in this state are mistaken. According to an analysis by Feeding America, a hunger relief organization with which the food banks are affiliated, North Carolina ranks as the second-worst state in the nation when it comes to children under 5 lacking regular access to nutritious food and as 10th-worst for children of all ages.

“Hunger is a very serious, urgent and unfortunately rapidly growing problem” in North Carolina and the rest of the nation, Fitzgerald said. “There’s nothing more basic than the need for food. … A child that is not well fed cannot be as healthy as other children.” Nor, he added, can hungry children reach their full potential.

“You can make a difference,” Fitzgerald concluded. “We need more people to part of the solution.”

State 4-H Leader Dr. Marshall Stewart challenged 4-H’ers to bring Fitzgerald’s message back home to their communities, to raise local awareness and to become citizen leaders for hunger relief. One of the campaign’s short-term goals is for 4-H’ers in all 100 North Carolina counties to conduct canned food drives during national 4-H week, the first week in October.

Many of the 4-H members, including 13-year-old Will Farlessyost of Madison County, already are active volunteers for community food pantries and food banks. His club, Roots and Shoots, frequently raises money and collects and repackages food for a food bank.

“We do it because we want to make sure everyone has enough to eat. It makes me feel good helping people out,” he said. “And it can be fun.”

Sixteen-year-old Meagan Briley of Pitt County agreed.

“4-H’ers come from all kinds of backgrounds, and hunger is something that affects people of diverse backgrounds. So this campaign can unite us,” she said. “Also, 4-H encourages us to care about our communities and the quality of life around people around you, and Hungry to Help gives us something that can bring us together and that can allow us to make a real difference.”

For more information about Hungry to Help, visit 4-H’s website at http://www.nc4hstories.org/page/hungry-to-help.

-Dee Shore

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