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Arkansas Foodbank Helps Hungry in 33 Counties



Photo courtesy of Ray Scott

Most people think of donating food to those in need mostly at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but food insecurity is a year-round problem for many. According to the Arkansas Hunger Alliance, 19.7 percent of Arkansans face food insecurity – meaning they don’t know where their next meal is coming from – and 28.4 percent of Arkansas children are food insecure.

Food banks in communities across the state serve these people, and the Arkansas Foodbank helps by providing a warehouse for food to be distributed to charities that help feed the hungry people of Arkansas.

History of the Arkansas Foodbank

The Foodbank, located in Little Rock, was started in January 1984, with Cary Parker of Riceland Foods as its first board president. It was incorporated by Virginia Brissey, Wilma Jean McKindra, Madge Brown, Mary Thomson and Robert Berry.

“The Arkansas Foodbank secures donations from the food and grocery industries, government agencies, individuals and other organizations,” Tyler Lindsey, marketing and PR director for the foodbank, said. Donations are stored in a 73,000 square foot warehouse, from which 300 member charitable agencies receive food that’s distributed at food pantries, soup kitchens, youth programs, senior centers, schools, college campuses and emergency shelters.

Last year the foodbank distributed more than 22 million pounds of food across 33 counties, where 287,000 people are food insecure.

How the Foodbank Helps

The foodbank isn’t just about collecting donated food; it also helps teach kids about where food comes from.

Lindsey noted the foodbank has a program called Little Scholars through Sipe Ministries, which allows students from an inner-city school to help in the community garden and harvest their produce.

“The kids had a blast and ended up leaving with 60 pounds of beans that they then used in their cafeteria for lunch,” Lindsey said. “Their teacher, Ed Sipe, said at first many of the kids just thought vegetables came from cans. Now they all love gardening and eating fresh vegetables and some have even started a garden of their own at home.”

How to Help the Foodbank

Arkansas Foodbank hosts two fundraising events each year.

The first, Empty Bowls, will take place May 13, 2016, at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock from 6-8 p.m. This is the 14th year for the event, which features food from local chefs, live entertainment and an auction of artisan-made and celebrity-signed bowls.

The foodbank also hosts Drive Away Hunger, an event that takes place at the foodbank in September. It’s an educational event that includes southern-style cuisine, drinks and entertainment.

Individuals and groups can also host food or fund drives on behalf of the foodbank. Contact the foodbank at (501) 565-8121 or check out their website for more information. People who would like to volunteer at the foodbank can also get in touch with them in these ways as well.

Donations of money are powerful, Lindsey said, because every dollar donated to the Arkansas Foodbank translates into five meals. Cash donations allow them to buy food in bulk and make nutritious choices for their clients, through whom they distribute 51,000 meals a day.

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OnlyinArk wants to shine a spotlight on nonprofits doing great work for Arkansas and Arkansans in this monthly series. Work for a nonprofit or have a nonprofit you’d love to see featured? Contact Sarah at sarah@sarahewhite.com.


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Arkansas Women Blogger member Sarah E. White is a knitter, crafter, mom and writer based in Fayetteville. She writes at Our Daily Craft about crafting with and for kids and creating the life you’ve always wanted, as well as writing the knitting websites for About.com and Craft Gossip. She has three published books on knitting.

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