A national grant has allowed Southwestern's FFA chapter to raise produce, turkeys and hogs to address local hunger issues.

On Saturday, the local chapter provided meat, potatoes and green beans for the July End of Month Meal, a dinner sponsored by a different organization every month for the Salvation Army.

This month's dinner was sponsored by Tri Kappa Sorority, which prepared the food. As a part of the meal, the Knights of Columbus also provided delivery for those unable to leave their home.

Earlier this year, the Southwestern FFA chapter secured a national FFA Food For All Grant and developed a project to plant and raise food for local food pantries. Southwestern was one of 122 FFA chapters across the county to receive the grant this year.

The project called Golden Harvest involves raising three hogs, 20 turkeys, sweet corn, green beans and potatoes. The animals and much of the produce is being raised on the farm of Greg Schneider, a Southwestern agriculture teacher who designed the grant project.

The plan is to use the food for the next three End of the Month Meals and then for a Thanksgiving meal.

Schneider said he began researching food initiatives a few years ago because it's an issue that touches many in the community including his own students.

"One out of four of my students may not know where their next meal is going to come from," he said. 

The Golden Harvest project is similar to the school's Community Calf Project. The project began in 2013 as a way to engage students in real-world livestock care and to then address community food needs.

The calves are raised at the school and then cared for at a local farm until they are taken to slaughter. The meat for the project is to be processed and provided to local Gleaners Food Bank locations, one of which is at Southwestern. The school has received several grants from the program, including a $30,000 grant from Dow Agroscience to be paid out in three installments of $10,000 over a three-year period.

From the field to the stovetop, Saturday's meal was a total community effort, Schneider said. To prepare for the dinner, Ulster Project volunteers helped dig potatoes, an FFA alumnus provided sweet corn and inmates from the Women's Correctional Facility harvested and provided their sweet corn and green beans. Following the harvest, Hickory Creek Nursing Center helped snap green beans and Girls Inc. shucked and cleaned corn.

Schneider said he connected with the Clearinghouse to reach out to organizations involved in the End of the Month Meal. He found that most groups identified a way in which they could help.

"Everybody has something to contribute. It's just a matter of providing the opportunity," he said.