Aly Francis attends the Missouri State Fair to show swine and sheep every year. In 2018, she assisted with the FFA Food Insecurity Service Day. More than 100,000 child-friendly meals were packaged that day.
Before leaving for the fair, the 18-year-old from Paris, Missouri, stopped at the local Abel’s Quick Shop. There Francis overheard a woman tell the cashier she had only one piece of chicken to use for the rest of the week for food. This snippet of conversation made Francis realize something needed to change in the community.
“This service day sparked an inspiration to donate my hogs I showed at the State Fair and process them to give to my hometown senior center, The Monroe Manor,” Francis said. Her first trip to the Senior Center made her realize the impact her donation had on the community.
“When I walked in the door with a handful of pork cuts, all the senior citizens in the room lit up in happiness and joy,” Francis said. “That moment made me feel good because I did not start this project to help myself; but instead to help others in my community who I care so deeply about.”
Since Francis’ first donation, she decided to open the opportunity to other young people. Participants donate their market animals to local food banks, senior centers and other organizations.
Denise Damron, executive director of the United Way of the Mark Twain Area, helped Francis secure funding for the animal processing fees through the General Mills Hometown Grant-Making Program. A recent $5,000 donation from the Community Foundation is also being put towards the processing fees. More than 14 individuals have donated animals or cured hams to Francis’s Project – Feeding the Needy.
Maggie Cummins, a 13-year-old Paris, Missouri, native, donated her market hog to the Paris Senior Center in 2019. Cummins said that each year after the State Fair she plans to donate at least one animal. Cummins said she enjoys giving back because it is a way to help her community.