DES MOINES — Conrad farmer Arlyn Schipper said participating in the Foods Resource Bank has given him peace in his soul.
Schipper, who is FRB executive committee vice chairman, shared what his organization is doing on a local and international level at last month's Iowa Hunger Summit in Des Moines.
"I'm here to talk about a organization I'm so proud of," Schipper said. "The Foods Resource Bank is a Christian response to world hunger. We raise resources to support the capability and desire of small farmers in developing countries to grow lasting solutions to hunger."
There are 200 U.S. growing projects in 24 states that raised $3.3 million last year to support 62 overseas programs. FRB's 15 member denominations and 59 local partner organizations work in more than 30 countries.
"Our programs are in some of the poorest and most remote places in the world," Schipper said. "They are the hungriest of all."
Growing projects often start in rural churches. A farmer donates or offers to rent the church some land. The rural church frequently partners with an urban church. Project organizers talk to vendors who help with seed, fertilizer and chemical costs. At harvest the crop is sold and the money goes to FRB and on to its programs.
"We are very diversified in what we do," Schipper said. "We have turbines involved. A lady once sold puppies for FRB. There are pie auctions, livestock programs, dairy. They're very creative and it works."
Schipper's congregation in Conrad has a garden with its youth group thanks to a tremendous youth leader. Through the garden they're growing 2.5 acres of sweet corn that they sell to the local grocery store and the Iowa Veterans Home.
"It's brought our community together," Schipper said. "Families are working together weeding the garden."
"Being with FRB gives me a true purpose to why I'm here on earth,'' he said. "I have a responsibility to be a good husband, father and grandfather but also a farmer to feed the world. A number of years ago, I was sitting in the combine watching the tank fill up, all the trucks on the road hauling grain. It bothered me. What is going to happen on judgement day when a child who has starved from malnutrition or disease and I'm next in line. I'm 300 pounds. What have I done?"
FRB has given him the answer.
"I farm some of the best land in the world and the technology and the newer equipment is just unreal," Schipper said. "I've had it all but that one thing. Working with FRB gave me peace in my soul and knowing I can make a difference."
Three year ago, Schipper and his wife visited with some of the people involved in an FRB project in Malawi.
"They were so appreciative and they had so much pride," Schipper said. "We looked into the kids' eyes and you know they had hope."
When he sat down to a meal he got a knot in his stomach because they had prepared chicken for him and he knew that they only get to eat meat once a month.
"They were so willing to give and so appreciative of our help," Schipper said.
He and his wife were in Nicaragua last year to learn about an FRB project where farmers buy land paying for it over six years. The farmers said it was a struggle but they would make it and some day hoped to pass the land on to their children.
Sunday, November 30, 2014
By Jean Caspers-Simmet