NEW PARIS — National Trail Miami Valley Career Technical Center FFA held its fourth annual Bags of Hope event on Friday, Nov. 16.
The students packed 500 bags of food containing two meals each — providing 1,000 meals for Preble County families during the holiday season.
According to FFA Advisor Eric Kennel, this event began four years ago when chapter members saw a similar project at the National FFA Convention. The students wanted to help their community and created Bags of Hope.
The first year, they packed only 250 bags, but they have increased it the last three years to 500 bags.
“In each bag there are two recipes and all the ingredients for those meals. So in each bag there are two meals per bag; there are 1,000 meals and we estimate, on average, we are feeding approximately 4,000 people in Preble County,” Kennel said.
“Out students see the need in our community. There are students’ families that don’t want to ask for help, but as an agriculturally based program we want to make sure the community is getting the food that they need. This is an opportunity for the chapter to give back to the community as a community service project.”
Each year, the chapter applies for grants to fund this project. This year, Cargill Incorporated funded Bags of Hope through Cargill Cares. The chapter invested approximately $7,000 to purchase the ingredients. The bags for the food were donated through Golden Harvest and Rodefer Farms.
For Windy Ward, representative with Cargill Incorporated, it is important to give back to the community whenever they can.
“Cargill has the Cargill Cares program. We invest in, engage, and respect cultures while promoting sustainable and responsible economic development to improve living standards and promote stable communities. Cargill businesses and their employees also give to more than 350 employee-lead Cargill Cares Councils worldwide,” Ward said.
“Our local community is great, because our Cargill Cares Council takes on nominations to take on education or food pantries. Our council votes on how we want to invest those dollars spent into the community. I think it shows the community that our business is willing to give back and promote communities. It helps with the employees, for their engagement level, to work for a company that wants to help out in the communities that they live and work. I think that Bags of Hope is great, because we are putting food on the table for people who normally wouldn’t be able to have this many meals. It also engages the students to understand what it means to give back to the community as well.”
According to Eric Kennel, Bags of Hope would not have been possible without Cargill Cares, Golden Harvest Seeds, the Chapter Committee, and FFA Advisor Carmen Kennel.
Bags of Hope is organized by the students themselves. With the supervision of FFA Advisor Carmen Kennel, they form a committee, pick out the recipes and ingredients, and successfully plan the project.
“This project teaches to help others and is like a community service project that helps others, but might give back to us,” Mykenzie Smith Committee Leader of Human Resources, said.
“Not only does it do that, but it reflects on our chapter for our members to learn and recognize that people do struggle in this world, that do try,” Chapter Vice-President Macel Stowers said. “There are things that people struggle with, and sometimes that is putting food on the table. If we are able to show our members how they can help those and put some food on somebody else’s table, maybe they can show some more gratitude in their future careers, when they’re not only in college but also an adult. Maybe they can start a service project like this out in their own community.”
“I think it is very important that we are focusing on local people, rather than the whole world, because you have to start somewhere small to make a large impact,” Chapter President Rachael Kimball said.
These bags will go to the Community Success Liaisons in all five school districts, church groups, community organizations, and the HIT Foundation. The bags will be spread throughout Preble County.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH