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Statewide 4-H Council food drive helps Iowans battle hunger



In the season of giving, the Iowa State 4-H Council asks community members to help with a statewide food drive to help the hungry during the holidays.

Among the 40 State 4-H Council members leading the effort is Holly Schmitt of Winneshiek County. She said their goal is to collect 10,000 items for Iowa 4-H Fighting Hunger, which would be met if each of the 99 counties donates just over 100 nonperishable items.

“I think this service project is a really great way to reach out to every single community in Iowa,” Schmitt said. “It does not just focus on Des Moines or Cedar Rapids. It focuses on every single community. The food I donate in Winneshiek County will go to people in Winneshiek County. It will help people have a full meal and a good holiday.”

Donations can be made at any Iowa State University Extension office until Dec. 1. Then, the State 4-H Council will collect the goods to give to churches and food pantries in their respective counties.

“It’s not just about 4-H members, Schmitt said. “Community members, clubs, and different businesses are encouraged to donate.”

Schmitt is a junior in high school. She planned to apply to serve on the state council and continue working with the community next year. It was a passion born in her blood. Schmitt was raised on her family’s dairy farm with her seven siblings where they milk 600 Holsteins.

“My parents were both 4-Hers, and so were my older two siblings,” she said. “I joined in kindergarten, and I’ve been a 4-Her ever since.”

Her involvement included showing dairy, horses, communication projects, home improvement, clothing projects, health, music, and more. As an ambassador on the state level, she serves three counties and helps with various workshops and events as well as encouraging new members to join 4-H.

“4-H has something for everyone,” Schmitt said. “You don’t have to be a farm kid or a small-town kid. You can live in the city and be part of 4-H. There are so many different project areas from livestock exhibits to communication exhibits.”

Typically, State Council members serve for one year starting in June at the State 4-H Conference. That event was canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19, so her first term will last until the next State Fair.

“I’ve made a lot of great friends through it so far, and I would like to keep working on it,” she said.

They’ve made other adjustments to continue operating in a pandemic such as running regional rather than statewide retreats and using Zoom for meetings.

Additional information about Iowa 4-H fighting Hunger or the Iowa State 4-H Council Initiative can be found online.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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