By Sheridan Wimmer on November 18, 2021
Douglas County Farm Bureau provides Thanksgiving meal boxes to families experiencing hardships
Life happens regardless of a pandemic. We have bills to pay, health to manage, kids to feed. Even without COVID-19, life can sometimes be hectic, scary and stressful. In Douglas County, a few families received a small reprieve from the stress of life from Douglas County Farm Bureau and Farm Bureau Financial Services (FBFS) agents through a Thanksgiving meal program.
During the height of COVID-19 in 2020, travel was limited and our time at home increased exponentially. For organizations like Douglas County Farm Bureau, that limited travel meant extra funds for other programs and projects.
“We started our Thanksgiving box program last year as a COVID-19 response for our members in need,” Jacqui Folks, Douglas County Farm Bureau coordinator, says. “When a lot of our meetings went virtual, we had some unused funds since we weren’t traveling to meetings typically held in-person. Our board had a discussion of what to do with that money and there wasn’t any second-guessing. Since one of our mission statement’s pillars is service, and we knew there was a need in our community, we decided to offer Thanksgiving meal boxes.”
PARTNERS IN KINDNESS
Farm Bureau organizations across the state consistently make programs a community effort. By partnering with agencies and individuals with similar goals, projects make a bigger impact.
“We partnered with our FBFS agents who sent me names of members who they felt were deserving of receiving a box,” Folks says. “I contacted the members and they told me about their situation, and in many cases, they had been struggling financially in one way or another. Then we selected families at random to receive a meal box.”
Scotty Thellman, a first-generation farmer and Douglas County Farm Bureau member, owns and operates Sunflower Provisions, an online grocer in Lawrence that focuses on locally sourced and sustainably raised produce, proteins and more.
“We worked with Scotty to put together a box with a turkey and sides, all from local growers,” Folks says. “The families who were selected to receive a box could pick them up contact free from the Sunflower Provisions warehouse. We provided 26 boxes last year, and Scotty’s team was great to work with and was very COVID conscious.”
The county Farm Bureau kept the information about the families anonymous and respected their privacy, but Folks says the program opened communication with the members who shared their stories and gratitude.
“One of our members who received a meal box was a dad who had two children at home,” she says. “Just five weeks earlier, he lost his wife. He shared his wife’s cancer journey and was struggling to maintain a new normal. Another family had just been in an accident and couldn’t work. They didn’t have the available funds to shop for their Thanksgiving meal. Shockingly, there weren’t a lot of stories about people being laid off from work because of the pandemic. It was more personal life struggles.”
The success of year one with the Thanksgiving meal boxes prompted the county to repeat the program in 2021. A different funding source will allow the county to fill even more boxes.
“This year, we’re doing the program as part of Kansas Farm Bureau’s End Hunger grant opportunity,” Folks says. “We’re still partnering with a few FBFS agents and Sunflower Provisions is putting the boxes together. The grant we received from End Hunger will allow us to do 30 boxes total, and we’re excited to help our community with this effort again.”
The End Hunger initiative through Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB) began as a matching fund donation between Farm Bureau members and FBFS agents to food banks and pantries across the state when the pandemic hit. Nearly $100,000 was donated. Year two of the program allows counties to apply for grant dollars through KFB’s Foundation for Agriculture.
Families selected will be notified by Folks and will be able to pick up their meal at Sunflower Provisions.
Everyone deserves a Thanksgiving to cherish, and a few families in Douglas County can look forward to a little less stress this year.