August 14, 2013LAPEER COUNTY — A new partnership between the Stone Soup Food Pantry and the Lapeer County FFA program is providing fresh, locally raised meat for hungry people in the community.
Organizers say that 'Project Raising Hope' promises an array of benefits to the community. The plan is this: agri-science students at the Lapeer County Ed-Tech Center and FFA members, under the direction of teacher and advisor Tammy Hyatt, will raise beef, lambs, pigs, goats and chickens at the center's facilities in Attica.
In addition to providing a great learning opportunity for those students, the program will also incorporate a mentoring opportunity for special education students who attend classes at the Ed-Tech Center. Eventually, the meat from these animals will go to Stone Soup where it will be distributed to residents in need and to other food pantries.
"It's a pretty awesome thing," said FFA member Greg Bristle. Although Project Raising Hope has already begun, he notes that FFA members now have the time and space to devote to the project with the Eastern Michigan State Fair behind them. Bristle exhibited and sold a steer at this year's fair.
"We can start getting animals now that our barns are empty," he said.
"This program is phenomenal," said Stone Soup Chief Operations Officer Tommy Stalker.
"We've already had the first pig processed and are beginning to distribute the pork to people today," he said on Thursday while at the Eastern Michigan State Fair livestock auction.
Stalker and other Stone Soup representatives were on hand to buy at the auction. Some animals, like one of Victoria Djurovski's lambs, which was exhibited but not sold at the fair will also be designated for Project Raising Hope.
Helping give the campaign a great start was a very successful fundraising effort in July. That's when Hannah Fricko and her fellow FFA members donned animal costumes—in her case, a chicken—and stood at the Imlay City and Lake Pleasant road intersections collecting donations from passing motorists.
"We raised $5,000 in one weekend. It turned out really well," Fricko said.
Participants are confident the public and local agriculture community can continue to support their efforts in the months to come.
"We're getting a good response from farmers too," Stalker said.
He said they're grateful to Lapeer Grain who has established a feed bank in Project Raising Hope's name. This will allow farmers to allocate a portion of their crop to the program without any storage fees.
Meat is typically one of the most expensive and harder to find items for food pantries. The fact that Stone Soup will have locally grown, "top of the line" meat makes it even more special. With success, organizers hope this first of its kind model can be adopted elsewhere.
"If we can make this work in Lapeer County, we can then spread the word and others can try it out," Stalker said.
Next month, a benefit golf outing will be held at Castle Creek Golf Club in Lum. The date is September 15 with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. and pig roast dinner from 4-7 p.m. Cost is $50 per person for golfing, a cart and dinner. Cost is $20 per person for the dinner alone. Hole sponsors are also being sought.
To learn more about the golf outing or to make a donation to Project Raising Hope, contact Lapeer County FFA Advisor Tammy Hyatt at
667-6132 or firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with Stone Soup Food Pantry at www.stonesoupfoodpantry.org.
Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she and her family reside in the Capac area where she enjoys gardening and reading.