WATERLOO – A little time, effort and money from the Cedar Valley stretch far and wide for those with food insecurity around the globe.
Growing Hope Globally, a national organization with a local chapter, also known as a Growing Project in the Cedar Valley — Harvest of Hope — funds agricultural development programs in some of the poorest, most remote regions of the world, including Central America, South America, Africa and Southeast Asia.
There are more than 165 Growing Projects in rural communities across the U.S. Together, they have helped more than 1.6 million hungry people break the cycle of poverty and hunger by growing their own food.
Harvest of Hope includes members of South Waterloo Church of the Brethren, St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church in Hudson and the Zion Lutheran Church in Hudson, as well as other members of the community. Seven farmers from Reinbeck, Hudson and Waterloo volunteer to grow a portion of corn and soybeans, as well as a steer, and give the profits from their sales to Growing Hope Globally.
“They donate their time and their machinery and their expertise,” said Marlin Hershey, a Harvest of Hope member in La Porte City. He and his wife, Joy, have been involved with the local chapter since 2004.
As part of the program, members in the U.S. visit some of the countries they have served. The Hersheys traveled to Guatemala and Nicaragua in 2009 and Malawi and Zambia in 2011.
“It was really a life-changing experience to see the initiative, the ambition these folks have to create their own progress, their own success,” he said.
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In most cases, Hershey said, the people of the countries in need know how to grow their own food, but need assistance diversifying their crops and storing their produce and seeds for the next year.
Hershey said $55 can get a person on a sustained food security program for the rest of their lives, and according to the organization, 12.7% of people in the developing world live on less than $1.90 per day.
“We come in, we work with them for three to five years, and then we step back,” he said. “In some cases, they start another project like it and let that multiply within.”
The group will celebrate its impact and raise awareness about global hunger issues with a two-day event Friday and Saturday at the BCLUW High School in Conrad.
Speakers at the Conrad events include Kevin Skunes, chairman of the Corn Board with the National Corn Growers Association and leader of the Arthur, N.D., Growing Project; Elizabeth Righa, head of finance and administration at Anglican Development Services in Pwani, Kenya; and Roger Thurow, Pulitzer-finalist author who writes about world hunger.
“We’re trying to empower them to do what they need to do in their particular situations,” Hershey said. “What impresses me is they find someone who is worse off than they are and begin to help them, so they’re always looking to someone in need regardless of where they are in their income level. That’s very rewarding and affirming that we’re on the right track to feed the world and to expand one family, one village, one area at a time.”