Maine FFA Association, representing nearly 400 students grades 7-12 enrolled in courses related to agriculture and natural resources, recently completed a valuable statewide community project addressing issues of homelessness and food insecurity in Maine. Four target areas, associated with nearby FFA chapters, were identified: Bangor (partnering with the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter), Waterville (partnering with the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter), Cherryfield (partnering with Maine Seacoast Mission Food Pantry), and Presque Isle (partnering with the Aroostook County Action Program, the Sister Mary O’Donnell Homeless Shelter, Dahlgren Skidgel Farm of Hope in Caribou, Perham Food Cupboard and Washburn Food Pantry).
The goals of the project included purchasing materials to support the shelters and food pantry, sorting, packaging and distributing materials as well as learning more about the challenges and resources available to address homelessness and food insecurity. Highlights of the educational component of the project included FFA members at Narraguagus High School learning more about the services and volunteer needs of the food pantry in Cherryfield, the Aroostoock County Action Program (ACAP) preparing a YouTube video on homelessness and hosting a live Zoom panel on homelessness that included a question and answer session with FFA students.
The project was originally planned and funded in 2020, slated for implementation in March, which coincided with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, many priority items, including some food staples and cleaning products were no longer available. Once items returned to store shelves, completion of the project became possible this spring, with items purchased, donated, sorted, packed and delivered to appreciative recipients. Project work was overseen by local FFA chapter advisors and students. As a result of the project, FFA student members came to a better understanding of social issues in their communities and outreach organizations gained many much-needed food, paper products, cleaning supplies and other staples for their facilities as well as clothing, toiletries, linens and other essentials to distribute directly to their clients.
We would like to thank the primary sponsor of this project, the National FFA Organization’s “State Day of Service” with their $8,000 contribution. We would also like to thank Wal-Mart Community Grants for their $3,000 in support with $2,000 coming from Wal-Mart Supercenter in Presque Isle and $1,000 coming from Wal-Mart Supercenter in Waterville. We would like to thank Willie Sawyer Grenier of Maine Agriculture in the Classroom for handling all shelter purchases in the Waterville area and for delivering items with her son, Jared. Maine FFA Chapters of Ashland, Bangor, Caribou, Harrington, Mars Hill, Presque Isle and Washburn were particularly involved in the project and are all to be commended. There were also several additional local businesses and individuals in each community that contributed to this very rewarding project: thank you to all of them as well!
For more information on starting an FFA chapter in your community, please contact: Doug Robertson, State FFA Advisor, Maine Department of Education, firstname.lastname@example.org, 207-62406744.