Corn harvested at Dee River Ranch in Pickens County usually is sold for poultry and livestock feed. But thanks to the Invest an Acre program, a portion of Annie Dee’s crop is helping buy meat, bread and canned goods for hungry families in the local community.
“Invest an Acre is a Howard G. Buffett Foundation program designed to have farmers donate the proceeds from one acre directly to Feeding America,” explained Dee, who is president of the family farm. “That money is returned to the community — plus it’s matched by Monsanto. That’s a 200 percent return on the investment to help feed the hungry and reduce food insecurity right here at home.”
Buffett, who is a farmer, philanthropist and son of investor Warren Buffet emailed Dee last year asking her to participate in the program.
“Annie made a special effort to enroll in our Invest an Acre initiative even though we had not yet brought the program to her local area,” Buffett said. “Annie worked with us to develop a mechanism so Dee River Ranch could participate and took on the role of encouraging other area farmers to support the effort.”
Dee’s work with Invest an Acre is paying dividends at The Lord’s Pantry in Aliceville. The food ministry, housed in the United Methodist Church, provides more than 250 families a month with enough food for two to three meals.
“We could not serve the numbers of people we have without (Invest an Acre),” said Pastor Roger Short.
Volunteers from the congregation and community started The Lord’s Pantry last September, expecting about 100 families to register for food assistance. Prior to the first scheduled distribution, more than 200 had signed up.
Short prayed for guidance during an orientation trip to the west Alabama Food Bank where The Lord’s Pantry gets food.
“I was thinking, ‘Lord, we’ve already got 200 folks. How are we going to be able to do this?’” Short recalled. “My cell phone rang, and Annie Dee started telling me about Invest an Acre. She asked if The Lord’s Pantry was accepting donations and if I would be on television.”
Soon, Dee and Short were telling the story of Invest an Acre and The Lord’s Pantry on RFD-TV.
Dee is hoping the publicity will motivate other farmers to participate.
“My hope is to get every farmer in Alabama to donate the proceeds from one acre to Invest an Acre and Feeding America and see it come back into their own community to wipe out food insecurity and hunger in our state,” Dee said. “I think that’s where you have to start. It’s important to feed all the people in the world, but we have to start at home and make sure we don’t have hungry people, especially children.”
With irrigation, Dee estimates she can make 300 bushels of corn per acre. At almost $6 per bushel, an acre will generate $3,600 for hunger relief — thanks to the Monsanto match.
“Farmers are generous people, and I think they want to make sure everybody has enough to eat,” Dee said. “That’s why we produce food on our farms. Invest an Acre is a great way to help people in need.”
According to Invest an Acre, almost 920,000 Alabamians are food insecure. That’s about 19.2 percent of the population.
Short sees The Lord’s Pantry and hunger relief programs as ways to begin addressing other needs, whether physical, spiritual or financial.
“If we can put a few more groceries on the tables of folks who have a demonstrated need, it is a real, concrete and practical way of saying ‘We believe God loves you,’” Short said. “‘You are important. You matter. We care about you because God cares about you.’"