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Oklahoma State University

Delivering smiles one bag at a time

Tue, October 11, 2016
Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources
Suzan Perkins (left), who helped spearhead the Drive by Fruiting program, delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to Wanda Hagle. Photo/Todd Johnson

Last year, volunteers from the OCES office in Nowata County and the county’s chapter of Oklahoma Home and Community Education delivered a special treat to residents of a small town of 350 with a heavy population of older adults and children who live at poverty level.

“We coordinated with the owner of the small grocery store in town,” said Suzan Perkins, executive administrative support specialist with the Nowata County Extension office. “The entire back of my van was filled with cases of fruits and vegetables. The children came running and began to eat the fruit immediately.”

It’s called Drive by Fruiting, and this simple food donation program is bringing smiles to Oklahomans’ faces one bag at a time. As part of the program, volunteers prepare and distribute bags containing an apple, potato, tomato, banana and orange or a combination of available fruits and vegetables.

“This program is a great example of how OHCE volunteers and Extension Family and Consumer Sciences educators work together to improve health and decrease hunger across the state,” said Jorge Atiles, OSU College of Human Sciences professor and associate dean of Extension and engagement.

Nowata County Extension hosted two Drive by Fruiting events in 2014, the fourth year the county participated in the program. This year’s Drive by Fruiting event was held during Thanksgiving at a rural church near Wann, which actively serves local families in need.

“Both events were a great experience and a blessing for everyone involved,” Perkins said.

In Love County, an ongoing Drive by Fruiting outreach benefits more than 200 families every month.

“Last Christmas was the first time I participated in Drive by Fruiting, and just to see the looks on peoples’ faces, it gave me a great feeling,” said Randi McCann, Love County FCS/4-H Extension educator, who takes part in the monthly effort.

Rebekah Williams, an OHCE board member, launched the program in April 2011, and began partnering with Extension and OHCE a few months later to rapidly expand the initiative.

Since then, 17 counties have conducted Drive by Fruiting events through Extension county offices, OHCE chapters and 4-H groups.

“Did I think I would be able to partner with such a wonderful program as Extension through OSU and OHCE? That was a huge surprise,” Williams said. “I’m overwhelmed with how other people have picked up the project. Once you start doing it, it’s amazing, and it’s so simple.”

By Leilana McKindra

College News Network

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