How a FB agent started a free meal movement: John Harra

How a Farm Bureau Agent Started a Free Meal Movement

In Adel, Iowa, barbecue pit master Al Laudencia knows a little something about fire.

“No matter how big or how small, a fire gets started by a spark. The integral part of that spark was John Harada,” Laudencia says.

The Spark That Started It All

The ‘spark’ that Big Al’s BBQ owner Al Laudencia refers to is the Free Meal Movement.

When COVID-19 forced schools to close in Adel, Farm Bureau Agent John Harada saw a need to feed the children and families who wouldn’t have access to school meals.

Harada has been a proud Adel community member for nearly 30 years. He doesn’t just work in Adel; he’s raised his family and makes his home there. As he saw his town struggling amid the pandemic, he knew he had to do something to help. 

“I’ve always liked the idea of helping others,” Harada says. “In that time of need when something bad happens, you’re there to help and make sure their lives are put back together.”

Getting a Plan in Motion

Knowing that many of the kids in Adel rely on school meals for food, Harada knocked on the back door of Al Laudencia’s restaurant with an idea.

He offered to pay Laudencia to provide a set number of meals, and open the restaurant for anybody in need to come in and take home a meal.

“I suggested that we start with 50 meals,” Harada recalls.

On the first day, Laudencia’s restaurant was so busy that Harada added 20 more meals to the initial 50. They promptly sold out of all 70 within half an hour.

A Movement Is Born

As fellow business owners and community members saw the success of that first day — and witnessed their neighbors’ need — others soon offered to sponsor meals. And the Free Meal Movement was born. Soon the town of Adel had people scheduled to sponsor free meals for every day of the week for three weeks.

“It’s more than just kids being impacted,” Laudencia says. “It’s families, too. My job is to feed people, with or without money. And that I take pretty seriously.”

Harada’s love for his community inspired an entire town to take action, and that action ended up feeding 10,000 people in two months.

“Getting that extra help, even if it’s just one meal a day, is huge for these families,” Harada says. “I’m part of a community and I’m making it a better place for people to live.”

Making a Difference

Farm Bureau agents impact more than a single client/member’s life — they impact entire communities. If you’d like to make a difference, contact us today about joining the Farm Bureau team.