Arkansas Food Bank
Arkansas Food Bank is not your normal Arkansas Grown and Arkansas Made member. It is a foundation in the fight against hunger. The Arkansas Food Bank assists people in 33 counties across central and southern Arkansas. Of the 280,000 clients it serves, 33% are children under the age of 18.
In 2017, Arkansas Food Bank distributed 26.5 million pounds of food; enough for 60,500 meals a day.
As a part of its summer food insecurity efforts, the Arkansas Food Bank just wrapped up its summer cereal drive where 300 thousand boxes of cereal were donated. All cereal boxes were collected and now volunteers will sort the donated product into cases to provide to pantries.
We had the pleasure of visiting with Brandi Johnston, director of marketing at the Arkansas Food Bank. She shared the excitement of the food bank in wrapping up the cereal drive and expressed the importance of summer programs for children in Arkansas.
“Summer is our busiest months because kids aren’t in school so we have to find ways to get to them,” Brandi said.
Arkansas Food Bank serves Arkansans in three major areas of food poverty. Food for families is the primary focus of its mission. The Arkansas Food Bank has over 300 partners across the state in pantries, soup kitchens and other entities that provide nutritious food for families.
“You never want a child to lose weight, especially when they are growing,” Brandi said.
For those children whose families are not reached by the Food for Families effort, there is a focus on Food for Kids. Arkansas is 3rd in the nation for child hunger. The Arkansas Food Bank organizes programs such as the backpack for kids program, summer feedings, after school programs and school pantries.
“Arkansas is the only state in the whole nation that could be agriculturally self-sufficient. Why are we #2 in hunger?” Brandi said.
She has such a great point. Arkansas’s number one industry is agriculture. We have any food item from row crop, to specialty crop, to livestock and poultry. Why would we be struggling to feed our people?
The ultimate issue is while the economy is improving, people are still having trouble affording food. Even though unemployment is at a very low level in Arkansas, these are low-level jobs and people are still struggling. Food insecurity, also known as the meal gap, is defined as limited or uncertain access to an adequate amount of healthy food due to economic or social conditions.
So what can you do to help the Arkansas Food Bank feed more people, supply more food and make a bigger difference in our state?
Arkansas Food Bank will be hosting “30 ways in 30 days” in September in lieu of Volunteer Hunger Action Month. You can visit their website at https://arkansasfoodbank.org/ or their Facebook page “Arkansas Food Bank” to find more information on how you can volunteer.
Arkansas Food Bank also works directly with Farmers to source food. If you are an Arkansas Grown producer and want to help donate food to fight hunger in your state, please reach out to Brandi Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.