Evan Hahn, Chandra French, Lindy McLaughlin, Holden Harker

Junior fairs step up to Fight the Hunger, Stock the Trailer

By Matt Reese and Dale Minyo

The “Fight the Hunger, Stock the Trailer” program from Farm Credit Mid-America and Rural 1st has officially wrapped up its second year with major increases, both in the amount donated and the counties involved.

“Farm Credit Mid-America (FCMA) and Rural 1st came together for this last year in 2021. A couple of team members put their heads together and found a new way to inspire and engage our local youth leaders. The idea was to involve county fairs and they went straight to the junior fair boards and got the youth leaders involved to collect food donations throughout the duration of their county fair and award prizes based on the total amount of food donated,” said Lindy McLaughlin, associate financial officer for FCMA in the Norwalk office. “This year the Perry County Junior Fair ran around the campgrounds at the end of the fair asking campers to donate items. That got a little bit competitive. You know at the end of the fair you can have all this food in the camper and you don’t know what to do with it, so they donated it. Highland County took the challenge very seriously and had local 4-H clubs and FFA members compete against each other to drive additional donations. The Lorain County Fair also did that and, in addition to challenging each other, they had some community members step up and they had yard signs and a local Ford dealership also donated the trailer to use that week. The kids jumped on the radio and also were on the loudspeaker at the fair all week to make sure that everybody knew about it. If you were to poke your head in that trailer at any county fair, you would not see a whole lot of food there those first couple days. But as you started to look around toward the end of the week, there were junior fair board members and even community members starting to get a little bit competitive and most of those donations showed up the last couple days of the fair.”

This year Fight the Hunger, Stock the Trailer was conducted in regions around Ohio with each participating junior fair board receiving $500. First place regional winners collecting the most food (in pounds) received $5,000, second place received $3,500 and third place received $1,500 in addition to the $500 they had already received for participating. The funds are then used at the discretion of the junior fair boards.

“So the stakes are pretty high,” McClaughlin said. “There’s a lot that they could do with that money.”

The 2022 contest set a new standard for success in terms of donations to local food banks.

“2021 was our pilot year for the contest. It was in eight counties in central and southeast Ohio. Those eight counties collected over 21,000 pounds of food that was donated to 18 local food banks,” said Shandra French, FCMA financial officer. “Overall in 2022, 54 fairs participated and they collected over 170,000 pounds of food and non-perishable items. They averaged over 3,000 pounds of food per fair.”

Regional winners were: 

Southern Ohio — Highland County Fair

Northwest Ohio — Henry County Fair

Northeast Ohio — Lorain County Fair

East Central Ohio — Guernsey County Fair.

Lorain County collected the largest amount of donations with 13,000 pounds.

“One of the most exciting things we found is that all the fairs that participated in 2021 increased their amount donated in 2022, and many doubled if not tripled their previous donated amount,” French said. “We’ve heard great stories of the junior fair board members who were able to actually go to the local food banks to make that delivery. The impact that it’s made in the community as far as food is also making a huge impact on these junior fair boards. In Huron County, for example, when they started the contest this year, they did not have a checking account for their junior fair board. As the third-place winner in our region, they have been able to start that checking account, figure out what they want to do and expand their junior fair board program. For the first time ever, they’ll get to take junior fair board members to the Ohio Fair Managers Association Junior Fair Conference.”

In the end, it is hard to determine whether the recipients of the food or the junior fair board members benefit more from Fight the Hunger, Stock the Trailer.

“It’s been very exciting with this new program to involve the youth. It’s a way that we can provide something for that next generation of leaders in the ag industry and give them an opportunity to take the bull by the horns, really get in there and use their own ideas to come up with how they want to be successful in the program,” said Evan Hahn, FCMA regional vice president of ag lending. “If we could get over 300,000 pounds of food to our food banks in our local communities next year, I think that’d be a great success for our kids and for our rural communities.” 

Check Also

Farm Credit Mid-America celebrates $1 billion of returned patronage

Farm Credit Mid-America has been busy celebrating $230 million of returned patronage to customers this …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.