The Cook County Farm Bureau's annual food drive shows how helping those in need can also send a message about the value an organization brings to the community. [Titled "Field to Fork" in the print edition.]
Cook County, Illinois, home of the sprawling Chicagoland metropolis, is probably not the first place you'd look for a farmer. But if you did, you'd find one—and then some.
"One of the first questions that anybody asks me when they find out what my job is," says Robert Rohrer, CAE, manager of the Cook County Farm Bureau, "is 'Are there any farmers in Cook County? What do you have to do? Do you sit around all day?'"
Not by a long shot. Rohrer and his staff serve about 46,000 farmers, farmland owners, and others involved in agriculture in the county. They convey the importance of American farming to the nation's food supply every year with CCFB's Food Checkout Day event, a winner of a Summit Award in ASAE's 2012 Power of A competition.
The annual event raises food and cash donations for Chicago-area Ronald McDonald Houses, which provide housing for families of children receiving treatment for serious illnesses in nearby hospitals.
The cause is a great fit for the organization, says Mike Rauch, a member of the CCFB board and chairman of the event. "They take care of people in really dire situations, and food is one of the things they least need to worry about," Rauch says. "We can assist with that situation."
The weeklong "day," taking place in February each year, encompasses multiple events, including a food drive competition at area high schools, a "shopping spree challenge" at a grocery store where competing teams of police officers and firefighters race to fill grocery carts, food drop-off sites around the county, and member donations. In 12 years, CCFB members have donated more than 39,000 pounds of food and $50,000 in cash.
"We love the way that we're able to leverage our message into something that's beneficial," says Rohrer. "It's really about sharing the bounty that has made this country great with those who need it."
Julie Shoop is VP/editor-in-chief of Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]