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Annual "Salute to Agriculture" Breakfast
Mervyn Jenkins Expo Center
February 19, 2016

 Living to Serve: FFA Joining With 4-H to Help Feed the Hungry in North Missouri
February 22, 2016
Catherine Stortz Ripley, Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune

C-T Photo / Catherine Stortz Ripley

CAPTION: Chillicothe FFA chapter president, Marissa Surber, delivers the keynote address during the Salute to Agriculture Friday morning.

Chillicothe High School FFA chapter president Marissa Surber delivered the keynote address for the Salute to Agriculture Friday morning at Mervyn Jenkins Expo Center. An estimated 150 people attended, including about 40 FFA members who prepared and served a breakfast of sausage, eggs and pancakes. The breakfast event, which is held annually by the Chillicothe FFA chapter and the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce, was sponsored by Woody's Automotive Group.

Rebecca Pitchford, FFA chapter secretary, served as the emcee for the morning event; and chapter chaplain Maggie Resor gave the invocation. Erin Campbell, chapter 1st vice president, gave the welcome.

In her address to those gathered, Surber talked about a program that involves local FFA and 4-H members packaging and donating more than 50,000 non-perishable meals to food pantries in Livingston County and throughout north Missouri. She said her interest in the national Meals of Hope program began when she and other local FFA'ers attended the weeklong FFA Washington Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., last summer. The conference began with students identifying their personal strengths and weaknesses and then listing their passions and interests. "When we were finished, we put the two lists together and were supposed to brainstorm about how our strengths and our passions could come together and point out our purpose in life," she said. During the conference, the students discussed diversity and citizenship and learned about major issues going on in the world today. The recurring topic, though, was hunger. "We were given heartbreaking statistics about the number of people in our world that go hungry," Surber said. One group exercise demonstrated what it was like to walk in the shoes of those who don't have enough to eat. One evening for dinner, the FFA members were divided into three groups. Some received a full, three-course meal served to them on tables, while others had to sit on the floor and share bowls of rice. A large number of students received no food at all. "It was eye-opening," Surber said.

The rest of the conference was focused on how FFA members could use their strengths and passions to make the world a better place. Each student constructed a "Living to Serve" plan that they would take home and implement in their own community. On the last day of the conference, FFA'ers took part in a service project designed to help the hungry people of Washington, D.C. Some of the money that had been paid to register for the conference had gone into buying nonperishable meals that attendees prepared and packaged. When finished, the group had packaged more than 60,000 meals that were to be donated to the Feeding America food pantries in D.C.

When the participants returned home, they were immediately ready to begin carrying out their own Living to Serve plan. "After doing some research, we discovered that people were struggling with hunger right here in our own community," Surber said. In Missouri, one in six people struggles with hunger and, according to Mizzou's 2014 Missouri Hunger Atlas, 16.6 percent of households in Livingston County have food uncertainty. The FFA'ers then decided to organize its own Meals of Hope food packaging event and have brought on board support of the Livingston County 4-H clubs.

Together, FFA, whose motto includes living to serve, and 4-H, whose motto includes pledging hands for larger service are planning a packaging event Saturday, April 9, at the Litton Ag Center. Meals of Hope will deliver the materials for 50,000 meals to be prepared by the FFA and 4-H members and donated to food pantries of Livingston County. Each meal costs 25 cents, and the groups hope to raise $12,500 to pay for the food. The Livingston County Community Foundation has already donated $5,000 to the cause, Surber said. The rest of the money is being directly donated or raised by the members of the 4-H and FFA and through other donations. On the day of packaging, it is hoped that 300 4-H and FFA members will volunteer their time to prepare the meals. The meals will then be donated the local food pantries according to how much food each of them is able to hold. The leftover meals will then be shipped to the Feeding America food pantry in St. Joseph. Donations from anyone interested in supporting the cause are being accepted. Checks can be made out to the Chillicothe FFA Chapter. 

Brent Kline, owner of Woody's Automotive Group which was the Salute to Agriculture breakfast sponsor, also made a few remarks and stated that if given the chance to go back in time, he would have chosen a career involving agriculture. "It might seem to you like owning the dealership... and being able drive any car you want would be a dream career. But, here's the truth... if I could go back to 1986 and choose a career path again, I would certainly make a career of agriculture a priority for several reasons." He noted that agriculture is a worthwhile occupation because it helps to sustain life, that he would be able enjoy a career involving spending time in nature, and that he would love the challenge of smart agriculture. "Doing things progressively smarter and more efficient brings a great sense of satisfaction," Kline said. "Being successful in agriculture not only requires hard work; it also, mostly, requires working smart and efficient." He said that he enjoys living in an ag-based community and that Woody's Automotive Group supports agriculture in many ways.

Exhibitors of the Salute to Agriculture included Bank Midwest, Barnes-Baker Motors, BU Bank, Chillicothe Ford Lincoln, In., Citizens Bank & Trust, FCS Financial, Investors Community Bank, Livingston County Farm Bureau, Pat Thorne Lumber, Sydneysider, Farm & Lawn, Willcross Seed, and Ziegler Ag Equipment.

Chamber ag breakfast committee members were Chasity Anderson, Roger Barnes, Brent Kline, Cathy Ripley, Scott Rule and Matt Trussell.

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