Illinois FFA President Sam Detwiler of Flanagan, Ill., (left) and other state FFA officers recently teamed up with Syngenta personnel to box food items for the Midwest Food Bank in Bloomington, Ill. Each of the 24 boxes provided a family of four with three meals per day for a week.
Illinois FFA President Sam Detwiler of Flanagan, Ill., (left) and other state FFA officers recently teamed up with Syngenta personnel to box food items for the Midwest Food Bank in Bloomington, Ill. Each of the 24 boxes provided a family of four with three meals per day for a week.

NORMAL, Ill. — A crop protection company, youth leadership group and hotel recently joined forces in the battle against hunger.

Through the efforts of Syngenta, the Illinois FFA officers and the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel, about 24 boxes of food were gathered and delivered to the Midwest Food Bank. Each box contained enough food to feed a family of four three meals per day for a week.

About 95 Syngenta sales representatives, agronomy service representatives, district managers, account development representatives and customer marketing team members were on hand for the meeting and food drive.

“We spent most of the day connecting our people with our culture, our ambition, our strategy and how it’s about bringing plant potential to life, and we really wanted to bring it to life by making a contribution with the community outreach program,” said Jerry Johnson, head of Syngenta’s Heartland East Commercial Unit.

“So we partnered with the Midwest Food Bank, and we partnered with the Illinois FFA to help us with awareness of food issues here in the U.S. A big part of what we do is about producing food, so we’re seeing it all the way through to people that are not as fortunate as we are.”

The recently installed Illinois FFA officers served as team leaders to assist each group in collecting specific food items for each box.

“We were invited by Syngenta and Midwest Food Bank to participate in packaging food. The packages will be distributed across the state to families that need food and don’t know where their next meal will come from,” said Illinois FFA President Sam Detwiler of Flanagan.

“In FFA, we really like to participate in activities like this where we can give back to the community in numerous ways. These food packages won’t just effect Bloomington-Normal, but rather than entire state.

“We’re honored to be invited to this. Hunger is such an important issue, and it’s getting larger, it grows and grows every day. So for us to be able to give back like this is really amazing, and we’re very happy to be here.”

With more than 30 million Americans going to be hungry each night, the FFA has made a concerted effort to play a role in helping those in need through its Harvest for All program.

Harvest for All is sponsored by the Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leaders group, which encourages FFA chapters to host local food drives.

Detwiler said one example of the group’s efforts in providing for the needy is the upcoming FFA Camp in Monticello.

“We’re sending out information to all of the campers coming down to bring a bag of food,” he said. “We collected all of that food and send it to the Illinois Farm Bureau and they keep a tally of how many pounds come in and how much money is raised and they distribute that food right away.

“Some chapters will bring in food, others will raise money and others donate their service and their time.”

The Midwest Food Bank facilities in Bloomington and Peoria provide for food pantries throughout Illinois, and the need continues to rise.

“Demand continues to go up. Over the last three years, we’ve seen at least a 60 percent increase in the amount of food going to each food pantry. That’s a lot of food,” said Mike Hoffman, Midwest Food Bank director of operations. “For the last two years, we’ve averaged over a 30 percent increase per year. Every bit helps.”

The Bloomington-based food bank serves an area from Rockford to St. Louis, “in kind of sweeping section,” Hoffman said. “We have food banks as far away as Saline County in Harrisburg. That’s about a four-hour drive away, and we go up into Rockford and North Chicago.

“The Bloomington food bank has 235 food pantries that come and pickup food from us on a regular basis.”

Hoffman, who was on hand for the Syngenta and FFA effort, expressed his appreciation.

“Just the fact that a group of people get together to package enough food for families that are in great need, this is going to go a long way locally for helping local families who really need food,” he said.

“When people pick up food and see a box full of food, there will be tears because they don’t have anything and this is a bunch. To me and you, maybe it’s not so much, but it is a lot of food.”

This marked the first time Syngenta partnered with the Midwest Food Bank.

“It’s awesome that they reached out to us and asked us if we’d be interested,” Hoffman said.

“We get a lot of different requests from different organization and just to be able to get more exposure to the fact of the need out there and for people to be able to partner and to help, it means a lot. There are so many great corporations in this whole world that are helping a lot of people.

“When people care enough to not only donate the food, they could have donated the food and dropped it off at the food bank, but to actually have people getting involved, all of the people in this room have now been able to experience of packaging something and doing something for somebody else, and there’s not anybody here who doesn’t feel good about what they just did. Hopefully, that encourages them to continue to do that.”