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Iowa 4-H Council donates more than 20,000 items from statewide food drive

Kaitlyn Riley

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State 4-H Council members (L-R) Hannah Lanphere, Kelsie Kinne and Cecelia Hill, along with Dennis Johnson, Worth County extension director, pose with food items donated for the MANNA food pantry in Worth County. (Photo Credit: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach)

A youth organization’s idea of feeding the hungry during the holidays more than doubled its goal.

The Iowa 4-H State Council held a statewide food drive called Iowa 4-H Fighting Hunger. Holly Schmitt of Winneshiek County said their original goal was to collect 10,000 items, but Iowans across the state helped them double that number with 21,771 food items collected in seven weeks.

This statewide food drive was initiated and facilitated by all 40 members of the State 4-H Council from Nov. 2 through Dec. 18. Council members wanted to ensure that local food pantries were full during the holiday season. According to Feeding America, one in seven children in Iowa struggle with hunger.

“When you advocate for an initiative, see it happen, and successfully meet your goal, you can’t help but feel a sense of achievement within your team,” Schmitt said. “The food drive has given our state council a sense of purpose in the state and it has given individual members opportunities to grow in their marketing, communication, and leadership skills. This initiative has also helped each council member see the needs their communities have, whether that be in food donations or other acts of service, helping our group of 4-H’ers to create a lasting impact in our clubs, communities, country, and world.”

Through promotional videos, social media posts, and word of mouth, council members worked with county extension staff to engage their communities in this effort. Weekly food totals from counties were recorded by council members throughout the seven-week initiative.

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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