Read to Feed

What can be accomplished in 217,460 minutes? You can watch every game of an NFL football season, including the postseason, in roughly 3,600 hours (216,000 minutes). You can plant, harvest, store and sell an entire field of corn in less than 150 days (also 216,000 minutes). If you took a straight line, you could walk across the entire United States of America in five months (219,000 minutes).

Indiana FFA members proved that they can do something significant and have a global impact in that amount of time.

The Read to Feed program is a community service project associated with Heifer International that began during the 2015-16 school year. Heifer International is a nonprofit organization that works to combat poverty and hunger by providing livestock and education to families in developing countries. Eleven chapters from across the state of Indiana took part in the program and connected with third- and fourth-grade students in their local communities to encourage them to read and also to teach them about international agriculture and world hunger.

“The goals of the Read to Feed program are to combat illiteracy by encouraging students to read, to help high school students connect with elementary students, and to fight world hunger by raising funds and supporting international agriculture,” says Claire Baney, Indiana FFA state president. “We measured the success of these objectives by evaluating how many students and chapters were involved in the project, how many minutes were served and how much money was raised.”

The numbers only further prove the program’s success. During the 2016-17 school year, the 11 chapters were able to impact 925 elementary students who read for nearly 217,500 minutes. In addition to the money raised for each minute of reading, company matches from Elanco and Cargill resulted in $17,362 raised for Heifer International.

The Indiana FFA Association hopes to grow the program next year to 20 participating FFA chapters and to raise more than $15,000 by chapters alone.

“To any chapter or association that has the desire to make a difference and to create a similar project, just know that the opportunity to do so is out there,” Baney advises. “There are so many awesome philanthropic organizations looking for great young leaders like us to help serve. Make sure to do some research so you can create the best service opportunity possible. If you need assistance, don’t be afraid to ask someone with experience. Each of these things will help you be successful so that you can turn your ideas into reality!”