Teenagers seek to become hunger-fighters


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Posted Online: June 02, 2013, 11:04 pm
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By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com
ROCK ISLAND -- Local teenagers will get the chance tonight to join a new grassroots organization that involves weeding grass roots out of community gardens.

An informational meeting about a new "Teen Hunger Ambassadors" program will be from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the University of Illinois Extension office, 321 W. 2nd Ave., in Milan.

Rock Island County 4-H received a $2,500 grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to create such a program and "to empower youth to end hunger in their communities through service projects that address community-based food security and hunger relief," according to an extension news release.

The grant allowed the extension service to appoint Augustana College senior Kelly Farina, 21, as a "Feeding and Growing Our Communities" intern. She said she hopes to recruit 10-15 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 to become hunger-fighting ambassadors.

"Monday's the kickoff for this program," Ms. Farina said. "We're just trying to get the word out to the public, local youth organizations and churches that we're looking for a strong group of teens who are dedicated and motivated to reduce food insecurity in the Rock Island metro area. It's a really great way to get involved in a community grassroots organization."

Ambassadors will participate in a variety of projects, including working in community gardens to grow and harvest fresh produce donations. Other projects will include:
-- Organizing, collecting and delivering donated garden produce to local food pantries
-- Promoting hunger-prevention efforts by attending community fairs and farmers' markets
-- Arranging a major food-packaging event to supplement local food-bank supplies

Any teen interested in becoming an ambassador but who is not able to attend tonight's meeting can get information or sign up by contacting Diane Baker at 309-756-9978, or by emailing bakerd@illinois.edu.
Ms. Farina also is promoting a "plant-a-row, invest-a-row" project aimed at gardeners of all ages to donate a portion of what they grow in their gardens to the "Feeding and Growing our Communities" efforts. Call her at 309-756-9978 for information, or visit webs.extension.uiuc.edu/hmrs. A "donate your garden produce" link listed under a "register online" category lists local food pantries that accept fresh produce donations.

Guest speakers at today's informational gathering will include Gretchen Mohr, 18, of Long Grove, Iowa, a recent North Scott High School graduate, who organized the first "Quad Cities Youth Hunger Summit" last year at St. Ambrose University.

"It was a wonderful summit," she said. "It brought together 250 students and 100 adult volunteers from 16 high schools, from both sides of the river, to discuss the issue of hunger prevention."

Summit-goers also packaged 26,000 meals for needy people, Ms. Mohr said.

"The whole purpose of Monday's meeting is to give students a better idea about what hunger is and how it affects people, and to give them ideas of the things they can do to make a direct impact," she said.

"Before I got interested in the hunger issue, I thought it was something for only people in Africa," Ms. Mohr said. "Once I became more aware of it, I realized it involved the person sitting right next to me in class and was affecting their productivity because they were sitting there thinking about where they were going to find food to eat tonight."

Statistically, 1 in 5 people in the world go hungry, she said.

"It's 1-in-4 in the U.S.," Ms. Mohr added. "Yet, we think the U.S. is a developed country. If we can put a man on the moon, there is no reason for children to go hungry in this country."

Student Hunger Ambassadors will get a fantastic opportunity to make a direct impact on what is happening to their neighbors, Ms. Mohr said.

She would love to join them this summer but leaves in two weeks on a hunger mission trip to Bangladesh, a 23-hour-long plane trip away.

Ms. Mohr attended the ambassador program's first planning meeting and will help at today's session.

''They'll Skype me when I'm in Bangladesh if they need anything else," she said.

















 



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