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Foods Resource Bank —

By Staff | Nov 21, 2008

Farm News staff writerROCK VALLEY – While serving in Korea, Vern Sloan of Ohio saw orphans crawling through garbage in search of food. Years later these images are still in his mind. Now a farmer, he determined there had to be a way for his corn could directly help the poor.He talked to his Methodist church leaders. They were interested and formed an organization, which now includes a variety of mainline church denominations, which see the need for working together.Foods Resource Bank is a grassroots organization that involves the farmer and his rural community in assisting a destitute community in a poor economy.As the program was getting started, Ron DeWeerd, director of development for FRB, traveled to Canada to discover how a similar program, Canadian Food Grain Bank, works.There he decided the best method for meeting needs was in selling donated grain locally, depositing the money in a bank and making the funds available for specific projects.The extra costs associated with shipping the grain directly to other countries were prohibitive. This also eliminated transportation headaches and dealing with each individual country’s import laws. It was also more in accordance with FRB’s goals of aiding a village to become more food secure.This program allows checks for marketed grain to be used for various designated projects, including building dams, digging wells, developing sanitation systems, purchasing hybrid grain seed, anything that will help a community to grow its own food.Each project is uniquely designed for that community.FRB, DeWeerd said, works directly with a village or rural area. Leaders converse with FRB determining what need has the highest priority. A written plan for achieving this goal in five years is drawn up. FRB then presents the plan to its member organizations. Here in the states, a church relief program may suggest a project to their members. It then becomes a community project. Whereas before, the farmer may have borne all the costs, DeWeerd explained, most of FRB projects are a joint effort.Members of a church may pay for the rent of the land, inputs and other related costs. The farmer does the work,“It restores a sense of community,” said DeWeerd. “There is usually a sign displayed near the field. People can say I am a part of this, I purchased a bag of seed or I bought a row.”DeWeerd said he views this as a three-legged stool. First the farmer provides the land for g rowing the crop. Secondly, national vendors are encouraged by local seed and fertilizer businesses to donate inputs and, thirdly, the non-farming community becomes cash partners as they provide cash for the non-donated items.Currently there are 58 projects underway in 34 countries. FRB does not work in a response to crisis. Its goal is to create stability and sustainability, aiding the poor to continue their march out of poverty.The three main achievements FRB wishes to see are, as follows:? Families producing enough food that is of good quality and good nutrition.? Families will produce more than enough food to barter or sell so that they can keep their children in school.? Families will produce more food than needed for the above two achievements“You don’t give dignity and honor to people by creating dependence,” said DeWeerd. “There is truth in the old proverb, ‘Give a man a fish and you have fed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you have fed him for a life time.'”Contact Renae Vander Schaaf at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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