UNITY – Three dozen chickens pecking around Quaker Hill are generating discussion among students about sustainable ecosystems, food scarcity and animal care.

And soon they’ll be dinner for local people in need of food.

The chickens are part of Pastured Poultry for Food Security, a project created to breed farmers and relieve hunger in local communities.

The Future Farmers of America at Unity College and at Waldo County Technical Center are collaborating on the project, funded by a $2,000 National Future Farmers of America’s Food For All grant.

Sara Trunzo, Unity College food and farm projects coordinator and FFA adviser, said the project is typical of many at the environmental college: It’s hands-on, altruistic and sustainability-minded.

College junior Shayne Van Leer has headed up the campus effort. Van Leer, the college’s FFA vice president, researched costs of feed and equipment, compared poultry breeds, developed a brooding habitat and established a care management system.

And since the Postal Service delivered the just-born chicks March 16, Van Leer has helped monitor their temperature, fed and watered them and cleaned the pens.

In about three weeks, the Red Broiler chickens will be slaughtered at a local butcher shop and FAA participants will deliver the poultry to the Volunteer Regional Food Pantry in Unity and Belfast Soup Kitchen.

While Unity College students have often donated fresh vegetables to the regional food pantry, Trunzo said this will be the first time they have given fresh meat.

The college’s captive wildlife care and education staff has been extremely helpful, Trunzo said, giving advice about healthy, humane habitats, animals’ abilities to teach people and the proper handling of the chickens.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Beth Staples can be contacted at 861-9252 or at:

[email protected]