Kentucky FFA Foundation’s Better Days Through Better Ways Grants Address Hunger, Develop Agriculture Students Into Community Leaders
The Kentucky FFA Foundation has announced the selection of 11 FFA chapters across Kentucky for a 2017 Better Days Through Better Ways grant.
The Better Days Through Better Ways initiative awards $1,000 grants to Kentucky FFA chapters for service learning projects addressing food insecurity and hunger in their communities. Only four years old, the initiative has already distributed $34,000 in funding.
Nearly 16 percent of people in Kentucky struggle with hunger at some point during the year, according to an annual report by Feeding America called Map the Meal Gap. Of those people, nearly 30 percent have incomes too high to be eligible for major federal nutrition assistance programs. That means they must turn elsewhere to make up the shortfall.
The Better Days Through Better Ways initiative challenges agriculture students to research food insecurity in their own communities and propose a project to address the need. Projects typically include sustainable food production and a community outreach component.
This year’s projects showcase the breadth of Kentucky agriculture, including broiler and egg production, beekeeping, aquaculture, and raised bed gardening. FFA members will lead the projects, gaining both technical skills and a better understanding about their communities in the process.
“Imagine the impact this project could have on a participating FFA member,” said Sheldon McKinney, executive director of the Kentucky FFA Foundation. “They have learned about the needs of others in their community and how they personally can affect change. Students will be a part of this agricultural production project from start to finish, and then they get to see the outcome. If this experience moves them, they’ve learned how to be empathetic and empowered community leaders.”
Many chapters will donate the food they produce to their school lunch programs or local food pantries. Others will conduct workshops to help community members learn to produce their own food.
Greenup County FFA received a Better Days Through Better Ways Grant in 2016, and used the funding to start producing broiler chickens and Shiitake mushrooms. Students conducted community workshops, and the mushroom seminar was so successful that they had to schedule a second one to meet community demand. They applied for and received another grant this year to expand both their own mushroom production and the workshops.
“Like a lot of communities, we have cheap food available, but it is not necessarily wholesome or nutritious,” said Carrie Davis, agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Greenup County High School. “Dollars from the Better Days Through Better Ways grant not only allow our students to develop their presentation skills, but they filter into the community as a potential way to earn extra income and combat local food security issues.”
The Better Days Through Better Ways grants are funded by the Mulhollem Cravens Foundation through a partnership with the Kentucky FFA Foundation.
“We have been very pleased to follow the progress of the Better Days Through Better Ways initiative,” said Valerie Cravens. “The program is succeeding in blending entrepreneurship, community cooperation, and hands on experience for local chapters. The initiative makes students mindful of local food needs, and the efforts to find solutions empower them to see a future where they can make a difference.”
In addition to sponsoring the grant program, the Mulhollem Cravens Foundation also supports the Kentucky FFA’s Teacher Mentoring Program, which pairs first year agriculture teachers with experienced mentors.
“Giving to the Kentucky FFA Foundation has the potential to change the lives of FFA members by offering them premier leadership & personal growth opportunities, but it also can change lives in your community,” said McKinney.
The Kentucky FFA Foundation cultivates partnerships which support the FFA vision to grow leaders, build communities, and strengthen agriculture. Kentucky FFA Foundation initiatives impact more than 14,500 FFA members in 154 FFA chapters across Kentucky.
Map the Meal Gap - http://map.feedingamerica.org/