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Collegiate 4-H'ers make sweet work of potato drop
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – The holidays will be sweeter for food pantry patrons after Collegiate 4-H members from across the Southeast bagged more than 30,000 pounds of sweet potatoes at Mississippi State University’s annual drop for the Mississippi Food Network.
MSU sponsors an annual sweet potato drop to provide nutritious, fresh vegetables for food pantries and soup kitchens across the state. MSU’s chapter of Collegiate 4-H wanted to maintain this tradition and asked to coordinate the 2009 event. Members also wanted the drop to coincide with the annual conference of Southern Region Collegiate 4-H that they were hosting on campus.
One obstacle stood in their way. Mississippi sweet potato farmers usually donate potatoes left in fields when harvest concludes. This fall’s excessive rain and flooding led to a disastrous production year. Much of the crop lay in ruin.
Larry Woodard, who is the north Mississippi coordinator for the national Society of St. Andrew, worked with MSU Collegiate 4-H to obtain sweet potatoes from Louisiana growers.
“At first, we weren’t sure we would be able to have the drop, but the generosity of Louisiana growers and the persistence of Mr. Woodard allowed us to help people in need,” said MSU Collegiate 4-H president Terence Norwood, 21, of Harrisville. “It was an awesome sight.”
At the collegiate level of 4-H, the focus is on helping the community, and each chapter takes on various service projects during the year. When collegiate 4-H members get together for regional and national meetings, they can accomplish even more by working as a large group.
Melanie Skaggs, 22, a senior geography major at Oklahoma State University, said she was impressed with MSU’s ability to host a smooth-running conference and the choice of service projects for the meeting.
“MSU did an excellent job of keeping everything organized,” Skaggs said. “It takes hard work to put together a conference and to coordinate a service project as efficiently as possible.”
MSU senior Savannah Duckworth, 21, a biological sciences major from New Albany, said she was glad to see the sweet potato drop had also attracted volunteers from other campus leadership groups.
“We have more than 40 active members,” said Duckworth, who is vice president of Southern Region Collegiate 4-H. “We attract the interest of students who were former 4-H members, and we attract those who are curious about 4-H.”
One MSU volunteer was 21-year-old senior biological sciences major Jonathan Jackson of Hickory. Jackson, who hopes to attend medical school, participates in the university’s Appalachian Leadership Honors Program.
“If we want to make a difference in the world, we need to step up,” Jackson said. “This is a way to help people who do not have enough healthy food to eat, so it was worth my getting up early on Saturday to help.”
Lowndes County 4-H volunteer leader Eve Priester of Columbus said she thought the effort was worthwhile, too. She brought her son Torrence Priester, 17, who is a 4-H’er, and another club member, Wyleisa McLaurin, 15, to the event in hopes of inspiring them to pursue community service.
“4-H can really change a young person into a leader,” Priester said. “Our young people need to learn how to give back to their communities, and 4-H provides a way to do just that.”
Contact: Dr. John Long, (662) 325-3350