On January 16-17, 2019, high school student State FFA Officers of FFA (formerly known as “Future Farmers of America”), worked with nearly 30 FFA student volunteers and their teachers from Sanford Regional Technical Center, Region 4 United Technologies Center (Bangor) and Narraguagus High School to assist at Good Shepherd Food Bank facilities in Auburn and Hampden.
Good Shepherd, the largest distributor of food assistance in the state, addresses food insecurity in Maine, which affects 1 in 5 children. FFA has traditionally been involved in food, landscaping and agricultural literacy community service activities at the local and state levels, and Good Shepherd Food Bank depends on the assistance of volunteers such as those from the FFA. Membership in the FFA consists of middle and high school students who are enrolled in courses related to agriculture and natural resources. Sanford Regional Technical Center FFA students are enrolled in environmental landscaping and horticulture programs taught by Katie Hoagland. At Region 4, Bangor-area FFA student members are enrolled in the horticulture program with teacher Jeff Beswick, while Narraguagus High School FFA students, accompanied by teacher David Rinkle, come from both the marine trades “Skippers” program, as well as those working with the Food Justice League.
The Maine FFA Association is supported by the Career & Technical Education division of the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry, as well as by additional sponsors, and travel and other costs associated with assisting Good Shepherd were supported by a “State Day of Service” grant from the National FFA Organization. Through this grant, an additional supported event included conducting a service/leadership workshop in Presque Isle for nearly 100 Aroostook County FFA members. The National FFA grant is also supporting the donation of two industrial grade scales and ramps for the Hampden and Auburn Good Shepherd facilities that will facilitate processing food donations and shipments transported by tractor trailers,
At the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn, Sanford FFA students were involved in inspecting, sorting and boxing over 7,000 pounds of fresh produce and nearly 6,000 pounds of packaged foods. One Sanford student said “I can’t believe we made so many meals in such a short amount of time!” Student State FFA President, Graham Berry, noted “It’s great to be able to volunteer at Good Shepherd Food Bank. Anything that we can do to help feed those who go without makes the world that much better of a place than it was before.”
In Hampden, FFA students from Region 4 and from Narraguagus helped Good Shepherd move into their newly renovated 40,000 square foot Hampden warehouse, now nearing completion. Students finished the day by helping to inspect, sort, and box donated food items. Maine FFA Vice President James Hotham commented that the Region 4 and Narraguagus helpers were a “really great group of students.” Narraguagus teacher David Rinkle noted that his students were not only happy to help out, but also found the information on Good Shepherd and food needs in Maine very educational. He commented “The food bank was enlightening for everyone and they really had a good time.”
According to Auburn Volunteer Coordinator, Bethany Tatro, Good Shepherd Food Bank “distributes 28 million pounds of food a year, or 25 million meals, to Mainers in need.” Despite the size of the Hampd
en and Auburn facilities, Good Shepherd Food Bank relies heavily on volunteer labor, such as that by the FFA group, to process food donations, and depends on private food donations and those by food retailers throughout the state.
The FFA Organization is one of the largest student leadership organizations in the United States, providing recognition, awards, travel opportunities, competitions and scholarships for over 650,000 high school and middle school students enrolled in courses related to agriculture and natural resources. Schools with green houses and school gardens for students grades 7-12 are among those eligible for membership. Not all FFA members are “farmers,” though many do come from agricultural families who recognize the many benefits and connections FFA membership bestows. In addition to providing organizational and leadership skills valuable to any profession, active involvement in FFA is often one of the first things looked for by agricultural organizations across the country when hiring new employees.
For more information, please contact State FFA Advisor, Doug Robertson, firstname.lastname@example.org