BERRIEN SPRINGS — Michigan Farm Bureau members and insurance agents gave up their Saturday morning to pack dinner baskets for food banks, churches and farmers.
Hundreds of Thanksgiving baskets later, and the Thanks-4-Giving program will feed multiple at-need families.
And they’re fed well, said Tim Ames, a retired dairy farmer who serves as Promotion and Education Committee chair of the Berrien County Farm Bureau.
“It didn't even have anything to do with the pandemic,” Ames told Michigan Farm News. “It was something that I just wanted to do when grain markets are so low, and farmers have a tough time making a living. So, I thought maybe there'd be some farm families that didn't make ends meet and could use a basket. I'm a farmer myself. I know a lot of people who are struggling with high input costs, and when you sell corn for $2 or $3 a bushel, you don't break even.”
Members of the Berrien County Farm Bureau, Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan Agent Charitable Fund and Southwestern Michigan College packed the baskets Nov. 21 in Berrien Springs. The Agent Charitable Fund donated $1,500 to assist with the project, as MFB supplied the turkey, rolls and pumpkin pies.
While unable to help pack the baskets this year due to COVID restrictions, 4-H collected canned corn, beans, cranberries, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Recipients of the packed baskets of turkey, mashed potatoes, and apples include food banks, farmers, and Berrien County residents. The third-year program produced 110 baskets, up from 65 baskets in 2018.
Due to the success of the project, Berrien County Farm Bureau received this year’s district-level MFB Champions of Excellence Award.
“Volunteering or donating to a service such as the Thanks-4-Giving project has a true impact on the members as they become aware of the needs of others and continue to grow and mature with that community connection,” said Nancy Carpenter, office manager of the Berrien County Conservation District.
According to Feeding America, 50 million people may experience hunger because of COVID-19, a respiratory illness infecting thousands of Michiganders daily. The charitable food assistance network said on its website 8 billion meals are needed to meet increased demand.
“We bring together the 4-H clubs, Berrien County Farm Bureau, Farm Bureau Insurance agents, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and FFA students to give to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to share in the bounties of our harvest for this Thanksgiving Day,” said Ed Kretchman, president of the Berrien County Farm Bureau.
In Berrien County, fruit is king. It’s why Ames wanted Thanks-4-Giving baskets to go to migrant farmworkers who work in the area vineyards and apple orchards.
“I would like to make sure that some of the migrant farmworkers got baskets — just to show that we appreciate them coming to Berrien County to help all the farmers,” Ames said. “I know there were a few migrant families who did come get baskets, and that was one of my goals.”
Thanks-4-Giving is the latest effort from county Farm Bureaus and MFB to address food insecurity in the state.
In March, the Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies’ Million Meals Challenge raised and donated more than $180,000 for 1.1 million meals — to food banks servicing the state’s 83 counties.
“No one is as passionate about helping hungry people as farmers and Michigan’s Insurance Company, Michigan Farm Bureau,” said Alex Schnabelrauch, director of the Center for Education and leadership Development for MFB.
The Agent Charitable Fund, whose mission is to end hunger in Michigan, is a donor-designated fund administered through the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture. The Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, a 501(c)(3) governed by Michigan Farm Bureaus board of directors, positively contributes to the future of Michigan agriculture through leadership and educational programming