A chance encounter with an elderly woman at a convenience store convinced Aly Francis she needed to help people in her community.

A chance encounter with an elderly woman at a convenience store convinced Aly Francis she needed to help people in her community.

Francis, a Paris High School senior who is an FFA officer, was with her father, Tony, in early August when they overheard the woman discussing her food plight for the coming week.

“She said that she had a chicken breast that she could turn into a soup that would last for a week,” Aly said. “Then she said … there was no other money for food.” 

It was a gut-punch for father and daughter.

“I just wanted to reach in and press $20 in her hand, but I did not have any cash,” Tony said.

Later that week, Aly attended the Missouri State Fair, where she learned about a program that provided meals to students.

“I asked if I could join with them and they said sure,” she said, adding that the fair opened her eyes to the struggle many in Missouri who go to bed hungry. “You think that we live in a pretty good place in Paris, and we do … yet there are so many people in need.” 

Tony and Aly talked about action — how they could help and not just fret over the issue. Their action is to donate a whole processed hog to the Paris Senior Center.

“We had conversation about what we witnessed and if there were other older adults in our community that might be in need of food at times and it just dawned on her that she had a resource she could share locally from her FFA swine project,” Tony said.

“After her hogs are used for the State 4H Livestock judging contest in early September, they will be processed by the University of Missouri Meat Science lab and the product will be donated to the Paris Senior Center. That product can then be utilized by the Center staff for direct distribution or through Meals on Wheels program to reach folks in need.” 

Tara Garside, executive director of the Paris Senior Center, said that she hopes that Aly’s actions will help spur interaction between the community’s elderly populations and young people.

“What she is doing is awesome,” Garside said. “Trust me, a whole hog will go a long way for us.”

She said the Senior Center spends anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000 to serve between 2,700 and 2,900 meals a month. Meat is by far the largest cost. 

However, Garside said the donation is much more than food for the center.

“So many seniors are just like that woman who needs help too humble and proud – and even too embarrassed to ask for help, so they go hungry,” she said.

Dad, meanwhile, is proud of his daughter for taking action to fight hunger.

“Aly hopes that her donation will pave the way for others, whether that be 4H or FFA members, or just local Monroe County residents who have the means to donate food resources to an organization of their choice to help combat food insecurity issues here in our local community,” he said.

Tony also credits the Paris FFA chapter with making a difference in the community.

“Our local FFA program works hard each year to pay forward …It is very important for kids to stop and think about the bigger picture, the community they live in and what they can do to make a difference,” Tony said. “I think our advisors work hard to make that a central focus by participating in many service-oriented activities and events.”