I was visiting my mom at work just before Christmas (she’s an elementary principal at Belmond-Klemme), and as I was getting ready to go, some high school students walked in to haul boxes and boxes of food out of the building. My mom stopped to introduce me to Stef Naranjo, who had organized the food drive. Stef is a sophomore in high school who is involved in tons of activities, like a lot of kids in small Iowa schools. Within those activities she has found an interest in community improvement. When she went to the 87th National FFA Convention she got to attend a workshop called HANGRY. Now, usually when I think of “hangry” I think of Snickers and people who get angry when they’re hungry (like my 9 year old). In this instance, however, the workshop was about people being angry about hunger issues.
Inspired by the workshop’s message that her generation would be the one to end hunger, and their call to Stay Hangry, she looked for local options to help out with the issue. She planned to gather food during the holidays for the local food pantry so that everyone would be able to have a great meal. Inspired by the FFA roots of the project, she came up with a “tractor giving tree.” She and a committee of other FFA members hung tractors with the items they needed on a Christmas tree in each of the district’s offices. They wanted to give members in the community without a child a chance to get involved too, so it was important to have a accessible donation centers. Then, in each classroom, they had a box to fill and a list of items for students to collect. They tracked the donations by class (the winner earning a pizza party). The group enlisted junior high kids to go to the elementary and count cans, while high school students would count during 1st period in the mornings.
Ultimately the Belmond-Klemme community was able to collect 3600 items for the food pantry, filling their storage to the brim with some much-needed items. Since her goal was to collect 1000 items, the surplus of items was an exciting way to celebrate the food drive.
Stories like this exist all over our state and nation. So often today we see complaints about our apathetic youth, only interested in their screens. Give them a chance to tell their story, and inspire them with something meaningful, though, and those same kids will not only rise to the challenge, but surpass all expectations.
To all those who participated in making that community’s food drive a success, thanks for being awesome!
Do you have a story of how kids are making a difference in your community? I’d love to share it!
Cross posted from rethinkredesign.org