Youth in the Olympia school district are getting some big help as they chip away at food insecurity in rural McLean County.
The Olympia Pacesetters 4-H Club just received a $25,000 grant from State Farm Neighborhood Assist — one of only 40 such recipients nationwide. The club will use the money to expand its Emergency Mini Food Pantry program to more locations in the Olympia district.
“The Olympia school district is a food desert, which means we need to travel more than a mile to get fresh food,” said 4-H member Kaitlynn Whitecotton, an eighth-grader. “So we decided, Emergency Mini Food Pantries like the one we built in Stanford might help people get more food when they need it.”
Each Emergency Mini Food Pantry (EMFP) is sturdy, weatherproof, fully stocked and available 24/7.
“Emergency Mini Food Pantries are truck tool boxes that we insulated. We make meal kits using items from our food pantry as well as other donations,” said Whitecotton.
With the new grant, 4-H members have ambitious plans. There will now be an EMFP in every town in Olympia (Hopedale, Minier, Armington, McLean, Waynesville, Atlanta, Danvers, Covell, and Stanford), plus one at the middle school and high school.
State Farm Neighborhood Assist is a crowdsourced philanthropic program that empowers communities to identify issues in their neighborhoods. In August, the Olympia Pacesetters 4-H Club was recognized as a Top 200 finalist after initial online voting.
4-H members helped raise awareness during voting through word of mouth, radio interviews, and a parade.
“We were making a video to thank people for voting for us then, all of the sudden, our 4-H leader told us we won the grant, and I thought she was joking,” said Whitecotton.
But Whitecotton’s leader was serious. Last week, the $25,000 check was presented at Helping Hands Community Center followed by a reception at Allin Township Community Building.
“State Farm is here to help life go right in neighborhoods all across the country,” Allison Bertsche, public affairs director at State Farm, said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing the impact these Neighborhood Assist grants will have in these 40 communities.”
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