FFA members and their families from Dodgeland, Hustisford and Mayville High Schools gathered in the gymnasium of Dodgeland School in Juneau on Saturday, May 31, to package a highly nutritious rice casserole blend into bags containing complete meals for six people. Some school employees also assisted with the project. It took the group just over two hours to package 30,000 meals, box them and get them ready for distribution to area food pantries.
Project leader Alexis Remington, president of the Dodgeland FFA, was inspired to get involved in this project after taking part in a similar effort at an FFA leadership conference in Washington DC. She participated again in the project at last year's Wisconsin FFA Convention in Madison where students packaged 70,000 bags of food.
"I really like this project because I know there are families who are not getting enough nutritious food to eat every day," she said.
Remington spearheaded the effort in memory of her grandmother from Mauston who had a concern about families, especially children, who were not getting enough to eat. She took it on herself to provide food for families who could not afford to provide nutritious meals for their children. Her grandmother's love for helping others left a lasting impression on Remington.
Remington's mother, Gail Remington, who assisted with the project, said, "When she died, a man who was in a very successful career came to the funeral because he remembered that when he was hungry and his parents could not provide the food he needed, she was there to help."
Alexis will be a senior this year and plans a career in nursing. "I just really like to help people," she said. "I will stay involved in agriculture by continuing to show my animals."
Ingredients for this project were purchased in large bags from the Rock County Rotary that includes Janesville, Edgerton and Beloit Rotaries. The Rotary is a satellite distributor for the "Kids Against Hunger" international organization.
Under the direction of the late Gail Roberts, Dodgeland FFA adviser, the group set out to raise the funds to purchase the bulk food from the Rotary and arrange to use the equipment necessary for packaging it.
Following Robert's untimely death earlier this year, the members decided to continue the effort with help from parents and interim advisers. Sixty people were on hand to help with the event Saturday.
Funds for the project came through a grant from the 2009 Dodge County Farm Technology Days grant program, Badgerland Financial, United Cooperative, Tony Cox Agency, Alpaca Breeders, Caine Transfer, Lauersdorf Excavating, Caine Warehousing LTD, United Liquid Waste Recycling, Farmers and Merchants Union Bank, Animix, Waupun Equipment, Rennhack Construction Co and Midstate Equipment.
Each package of food will feed six people, and all the recipient needs to do is add water; it has a shelf life of three years. These meals provide the essential vitamins and amino acids for complete daily nutrition.
Volunteers packaging the meals carefully measured ingredients to make each pack 400 grams. They sealed each bag and packed 216 meals in a box resulting in 7,128 meals on a pallet.
John Wong, director of the Rotary project from Beloit, was on hand to set up the packaging equipment and lines and guide the volunteers.
"Waupaca FFA did this project last year, and Denmark FFA is planning to do it," Wong said. "Other organizations are getting interested in it as well.
"Half of the meals prepared today will be distributed to the local food pantries by the students. We will take the other half of the packages and send them to Nicaragua where they will go to schools to feed children who do not get nutritious meals at home.
"We provide recipes with the food that is sent to the food pantries so people using the packages will have some ideas of how to use it by adding other ingredients. They are chicken flavored and nutritious, but they do not actually have meat in them. We suggest ways to add vegetables and meat and recommend ways the food pantries can provide these ingredients along with the packages."
Local food pantries that will receive the food include Ashippun Bread Basket Food Pantry, Crosspoint Community Church, Crossroads Columbus Campus & Pantry, Dodge County Food Pantry, St. Vincent de Paul, Beaver Dam, St. Stephen's Food Pantry, Horicon, and Waterloo/Marshall Food Pantry and the Gathering Place.