Autumn apples bring fun to philanthropy

You-Pick farm, Huffstutter Orchards, donates proceeds to the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri.
Hickman High School senior Cyrus Rautman inspects apples at Huffstutter Orchards in New Franklin on Sunday. Rautman has picked apples every year as a family tradition.

Huffstutter Orchards, a you-pick apple orchard located west of Columbia, opened its gates to the public during Labor Day weekend. Customers of the farm are allowed to walk freely through the orchard and pick their choice of Gala and Jonathan apples.

Huffstutter Orchards is located in New Franklin, about 25 miles west of Columbia, a city boasting just more than a thousand residents. Although Huffstutter Orchards used to be a commercial farm with wholesale and retail business, the owners Rick and Pam Huffstutter sold the rest of the property this year, leaving only the you-pick section.

The parking lot was filled Saturday morning despite the dreary weather as families and students from across Central Missouri came to fill bags, baskets and wheelbarrows full of apples. The morning dew was still dripping from the fruit as people competed to find the biggest apples from the highest branches.

"It's nice to have somewhere to go where I can buy apples that haven't been caked in chemicals," said Rick Anselm, a first-time customer of Huffstutter Orchards. "I mean, it's fall -- who doesn't want to spend time outside, anyway?"

Co-owner Pam Huffstutter recognizes her customers can enjoy the autumn atmosphere and still help local families. One hundred percent of the proceeds are given to the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri.

"Everybody thinks of it as all altruistic, but I think everybody needs to understand that no matter who you are, something could make you be a hungry person sometime," Huffstutter said. "I think that everybody needs to have a philanthropy that makes a difference in other people's lives."

The food bank has several programs that care for families in poverty -- especially hungry children.

One of the more creative programs, called Buddy Pack, helps feed low-income families on the weekends. Buddy Pack identifies children who might be hungry in classrooms and fills a backpack with kid-friendly food for them to share with brothers and sisters at home.

"The idea behind Buddy Pack is that we want to feed hungry children, and that's the idea behind everything around here -- we want to feed hungry people," spokesman Mike De Santis said. "By far, it's probably one of the most successful programs we do."

The Food Bank for Northeast and Central Missouri operates by receiving donations and food from wholesalers, distributors and growers like the Huffstutters, then giving it to more than 140 charitable nonprofit agencies. These agencies then pass on the free and discounted food to people in need.

"There are so many hungry people," Huffstutter said. "We just felt like this is something we could do."

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