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Student aims to fight hunger in county with FFA project

Staff writer

It took Cassie Meyer eight months of work, but last week FFA members, students, and teacher volunteers — 80 people in all — bagged enough packages of fortified macaroni and cheese to provide 24,000 meals.

Cassie, a Marion High School junior and vice president of her FFA chapter, wanted to help fight hunger in Marion County.

She got the idea both by attending a national FFA leadership conference in Washington and by volunteering at Marion County Food Bank.

“I’ve seen the lines at the food bank,” Cassie said. “I saw that there was need.”

At the leadership conference, she learned about developing a “living to serve” plan, where the community strives to solve a problem.

She chose the Meals of Hope program, a Naples, Florida-based food-boxing charity with a priority for seeing that food packed by volunteers is delivered in the United States.

After picking a project, Cassie’s first step was to raise money.

“I raised $6,000,” she said. “I went around to businesses in Marion and filled out applications for grants, and I went to a couple churches and asked for a donation. I’ve been raising money since September.

In a small community like Marion, it’s very hard, but the businesses are very supportive.”

Cassie hit her fundraising goal a week before food-packing day.

Several food-packing lines were set up in the school cafeteria, and bags were quickly filled, sealed, boxed for shipping and loaded onto pallets.

The packages will be sent to local food banks and to the Kansas Food Bank. Marion County Resource Center and Food Bank will get 8,000 bags, Main Street Ministries food bank in Hillsboro will get 200 bags, and the remainder will go to Kansas Food Bank.

Statistics recently released by Kansas Action for Children show that 39 percent of children enrolled in public schools in the county participate in the free and reduced-price lunch program. The monthly average of children in the county receiving food stamps is 280, and 18.5 percent of the county’s children are classified as “food insecure,” meaning someone in the household has gone hungry.

A report from hunger-relief organization Feeding America shows 1,610 Marion county residents fit the description of “food insecure,” 49 percent of the population qualifies for food stamps, and an additional 14 percent qualify for other food assistance programs.

United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.”

Last modified April 17, 2019

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