Smyrna High FFA students organized a food drive last week that was leaps and bounds beyond what they expected.

Smyrna High FFA students organized a food drive last week that was leaps and bounds beyond what they expected.

The “Bunny Hop” on the Thursday before Easter had two parts: the culmination of a canned food drive along with a walk to raise awareness about hunger in Delaware to collect monetary donations – all to benefit the Food Bank of Delaware.

“We had over 700 FFA members and students walk around the track,” said FFA President Allison Wheatley.

The goal of the fundraiser was $1,200, but the students nearly doubled that, raising $2,170. They also donated an estimated 1,100 pounds of food to the Food Bank of Delaware.

“We wanted to find a new way to give back to our community and to help combat hunger in our community,” said Wheatley. “We want to help the Food Bank of Delaware and help families have a nice Easter dinner.”

Food Bank of Delaware Milford branch director Chad Robinson accepted the donations and thanked the students.

“Hunger is something that affects communities throughout the state and it’s not going away,” said Robinson. “It’s always great when you see students giving back in such a meaningful way. We’re so glad they did. We appreciate all their help.”

The Food Bank of Delaware provides emergency food assistance through branches in Newark and Milford and through partner agencies throughout the state including school and church programs.

Robinson said the Food Bank provides help to about one in five Delawareans.

“It’s important to realize what your donations are doing,” he told the FFA officers. “People going to your school are receiving assistance from the Food Bank. You are doing something that’s important in drawing attention about the hunger problem in Delaware, but you’re also helping people right here in your school.

Organizing the project

For the food drive, FFA members collected donations from students and staff and brought in donations themselves over the past several months.

Then, for the Bunny Hop event, FFA officers called business and farmers to ask for donations and talked to FFA members, students and teachers about supporting the project by walking laps around the track on March 24.

The goal for the total number of laps kept increasing as the number of students participating grew and grew.

“Our original goal was 400 laps, but then we upped it to 1,400 and now we’re trying to reach 4,400 because so many students came out to walk,” said Wheatley. “I am completely overjoyed with the amount of people who have participated. It’s not just our members. It’s other students and teachers along with businesses and farmers.”

Sponsors of the event included First State Bow Strings, Al Moor & Sons, Hufford’s Electrical, Dixon Farms, Dixon Contracting, Route 300 Pets & Supplies, John’s Well Drilling, PPC, ZS Technologies, Barkley Heating & Cooling, Southern States Smyrna-Clayton Cooperative, Anytime Fitness, Wilson Farms, Snow Farms, Cordel Farms, ACME, Kevin’s A-1 Landscaping and Boondocks.

More than a food drive

The Smyrna FFA has collected canned good for food drives for about 15 years, said FFA advisor Keith Shane. The chapter usually collected the most donations of any chapter in the state when the project was a competition at the annual state FFA convention, Shane said.

Then last year in addition to the food drive, FFA member Chance Hemphill started a fundraiser by promising to cut his shoulder-length hair if the chapter collected $500 for the Food Bank of Delaware. The chapter surpassed the challenge, raising more than $1,000, and Hemphill received his haircut in front of the members, all for the cause.

That challenge inspired the FFA officers this year to come up with an idea for another fundraiser to accompany the food drive. The officers said they wanted to get the whole school involved with the walk to raise awareness about hunger.

The event also marked a milestone for the Smyrna High School FFA – the 40th anniversary of the organization’s charter on March 24, 1976.

FFA advisor Jay Davis complimented the students for organizing a project to mark the anniversary in such a meaningful way.

“I think they did a really great job,” he said. “They wanted to be able to reach out to the school, the community and businesses because hunger is not just a third world problem; it’s right here in our community. For the officers, this is a legacy they can leave to inspire the younger students.”

Shane said the Bunny Hop was a great example of a student-run project that reached beyond the FFA.

“This was entirely spearheaded and coordinated by the officer team. They took the ball and ran with it,” Shane said. “It’s a neat activity. Anybody can participate and feel like they’re contributing something back to the community.”