Hunter Daris grew vegetables and coordinated donations to food
FITZWILLIAM, NH – More than 35 million people in the United States were struggling with food insecurity before the pandemic hit, with that number rising to more than 50 million during the pandemic, according to Feeding America, a national clearinghouse for food donations. Addressing that need became the mission for one local Girl Scout, who grew her own vegetables and coordinated food donations for the community of Fitzwilliam and Cheshire County this summer.
Hunter Daris, 17, of Fitzwilliam, is now a Gold Award Girl Scout, having completed the capstone to her Girl Scout experience, “Troy/Fitzwilliam Fresh Vegetable Project.” The Gold Award is the highest honor for Girl Scouts in grades 9-12, showing that a Girl Scout changes the world for the better.
“I knew of a food pantry in a town near me,” Daris said. “I asked the manager, ‘What are you guys lacking? I want to help you out.’ She said, ‘Simple vegetables that people can work with.’ Squash, cucumbers, green beans, stuff like that.”
Daris immediately got to work, planting a garden at her house and at a farm nearby. She also arranged to pick up donations from the community.
Over the summer, she was able to provide a wide variety of vegetables to The Helping Hand Center in Troy, including 326 ounces of lettuce, 17 radishes, 31 zucchini, 70 squash, 953 cherry tomatoes, 152 ounces of green beans, 404 cucumbers, 29 ounces of snap peas, 5 ears of corn, and 66 large tomatoes.
Jeanne Drugg, managing director for The Helping Hand Center, advised Daris as she took on her project, and was grateful for her help.
“Hunter's gardening project was very fitting for her and her community,” said Drugg. “She did a great job of planning her gardening journey, from readying her plot for seed donations to deciding where the end product would be donated. She conferred with me as to which vegetables would be the most appreciated (and easy to use) for our food pantry clients. She also planned to develop a plot at the elementary schools whereby the children could participate; however, COVID-19 put a halt to that endeavor. Over the course of probably the driest summer in years, Hunter grew some amazing veggies. She brought everything to our pantry weekly, washed and bagged, ready for our client families. Her garden provided a welcome source of healthy nutrition.”
Overcoming obstacles is part of the experience of earning the Gold Award, and Daris had her share of issues – bugs that loved to eat her plants, a very dry summer, and the pandemic. She also did not have a driver’s license, limiting her access to the farm’s garden.
“Due to the pandemic, I needed to rework my Gold Award project,” Daris said. “Seeing the local schools closed in March, I was unable to meet with the elementary students of Troy and Fitzwilliam to plant seed starters and discuss the issues low-income families face with obtaining fresh vegetables.”
Through her project, Daris discovered that one person can make a large difference in the community. “I learned that planting a large garden takes perseverance and commitment,” she said. “It is also time sensitive, which allowed me to use my time management skills. I learned that farming is a tremendously difficult job that shows no mercy. I learned how to juggle my priorities because gardens can't wait.”
Her plan ensures that Girl Scouts in the future will continue her efforts to help grow and donate food to the center.
Daris has been in Girl Scouts since second grade, as a Brownie. She traveled to London with Girl Scouts in her freshman year, and has made the most of the Girl Scout Destinations travel program, visiting the Galapagos Islands last year.
“I love exploring, seeing new life scenarios,” she said. “Going to the Galapagos made me respect nature. It made me feel lucky to be on Earth!” She said she has made lifelong friends with the girls she traveled with.
Daris is a senior at the Emma Willard School in Troy, New York, where she fell in love with rowing and competed in the Head of Charles race. Her father is a flight instructor, so she set herself the goal of getting her pilot’s license when he took her to see the Thunderbirds at an air show when she was 14. She achieved that goal on Nov. 14. At 17, she’s among the state’s youngest pilots.
“I love being in the air! It’s totally different from being in the ground,” she said. ‘I do aerobatics - such an adrenaline rush!”
This accomplished Gold Award Girl Scout is looking toward a future in the military as a pilot and is applying to the Navy and Air Force academies.
Gold Award Girl Scouts don’t just change the world for the better, they change it for good. The Gold Award is earned by girls in grades 9–12 who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in developing sustainable solutions to local, national, and global challenges. Since 1916, Girl Scouts have answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change. They earn college scholarships, demonstrate high educational and career outcomes, and are active in their communities.
Hunter Daris committed more than 90 hours to her project, and her Gold Award is a testament to her dedication to improving her community and the world. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable.
About the Girl Scout Gold Award
- Gold Award Girl Scouts on average spend one to two years on their project.
- A Gold Award project must be sustainable after the girl’s involvement ends.
- The average age of Gold Award Girl Scouts is 17.
- Since 1916, more than 1 million girls have earned the Gold Award or its equivalent.
- Gold Award Girl Scouts are entitled to enlist at a higher pay grade when they join the military.
- University research indicates that noting you are a Gold Award Girl Scout on a college application is influential in the admissions decision-making process.
- Eleven young women from New Hampshire and Vermont earned their Gold Award in the 2019-2020 membership year as part of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.
- The Girl Scout Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable!
About Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains: Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is recognized throughout New Hampshire and Vermont as a leading expert on girls. Our Girl Scout Leadership Experience is a one-of-a-kind leadership development program for girls, with proven results. It is based on time-tested methods and research-backed programming that helps girls take the lead—in their own lives and in the world. Through our exciting and challenging programs, Girl Scouts not only participate but also take the lead in a range of activities—from kayaking, archery, and camping, to coding, robotics, financial literacy training, and beyond! Serving more than 10,000 girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Visit www.girlscoutsgwm.org.