LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently proclaimed September as Arkansas Hunger Action Month and Sept. 14 as Hunger Action Day. The proclamation signing took place on Aug. 21 in his office in Little Rock.
In attendance were leaders of six hunger relief agencies in the state, the River Valley Food Bank, Fort Smith; Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, Little Rock; Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, Jonesboro; Harvest Regional Food Bank, Texarkana; Arkansas Food Bank, Little Rock; and the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank, Bethel Heights.
According to the proclamation, 19 percent of Arkansans struggle to provide enough food for their families and 25 percent of its children wonder where their next meal will come from.
Arkansas has the highest percentage of hungry seniors of any state in the country and second highest percentage of citizens facing the most severe threat of hunger.
“No child, senior citizen, man, or woman deserves to go without food. Cognitive-learning deficits and failure-to-thrive syndrome in children, recurring illnesses among seniors, lack of productivity, and absences from work, along with long-term social and economic impact are among the damaging effects of food deprivation,” according to the proclamation.
Participants in the second annual Spectrum Brands Corporate Food Drive Challenge collected 133,675 pounds of food. A year ago, the challenge raised 17,000 pounds. The proceeds of the friendly competition will benefit the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank.
In addition to Spectrum Brands, the 16 other participants in this year’ challenge are Cargill, Castrol Oil, Englander, Signature Bank of Arkansas, Johnson Controls, Smuckers, General Mills, Kraft Heinz, Shell Lubricants, Newell Brands, PepsiCo, Simmons Bank, Unilever, ITW, Johnson & Johnson and Mondelez International.
Employees donated non-perishable food items and funds. The donated food was weighed on Nov. 30. The office with the most weight per capita was deemed the 2017 champion and received a trophy to display at its offices.
For the second year in a row, the winner was Johnson Controls, where the employees collected 758 pounds per person. Accepting the trophy were David Yadon and Kevin Height. There were 807 people competing from the participating company and the average was 165 pounds of food for each person.
Yadon said the five employees at Johnson had a good cause and support.
“We pulled in outside donations and our goal was to do as much as five people could do,” he said. They are hoping for a three-peat in 2018.
Kenneth Medlin with Spectrum Brands said, “He was overwhelmed with the response to help our community.”
You can make a difference in fighting food insecurity in Northwest Arkansas by giving a year end tax-deductible contribution to the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank.
A gift to the Food Bank could change someone’s life and could make a real difference in Northwest Arkansas.
“As 2017 comes to a close, I ask you to join the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank in our mission to nourish Northwest Arkansas communities by feeding hungry people,” said Kent Eikenberry, president and CEO of the Food Bank. “If one dollar can provide 11 meals, imagine what your most generous donation will do.
“We are on pace to distribute nearly 13 million pounds of food in 2017,” he said. “Food that comes in one door of our warehouse, and out another door to one of more than 150 partner agencies who in turn give it to the food insecure of Northwest Arkansas.”
The Food Bank serves more than 150 allied agencies in Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington counties.
Tax deductible gifts can be made at the Food Bank’s website at www.nwafoodbank.org .
Regardless of when you started it, either after Thanksgiving, or as early as Halloween, the countdown to Christmas is officially in full swing.
I cannot tell you how many people in the last couple of weeks have mentioned to me that this must be a really busy time of the year for us. From a development side, it certainly is as more people donate during the fourth quarter. More companies have food drives. More individuals bring in donations of food and money. More people volunteer.
So yes, this is a busy time of the year for us. But like a squirrel heading into winter, we store up these food drive riches in order to serve our partner agencies in the future.
If you walked through our warehouse today you would think, “There is no way they will ever distribute all this food.” The fact of the matter is we only have between three and four WEEKS supply of food on hand at any given time.
We estimate we will distribute over 12 MILLION pounds of food this year. Based on that poundage, we turn our inventory between 12 and 13 times a year. From a client service side, we are busy year round. A child’s hungry tummy doesn’t know if it is November or May so while there may be an uptick of need during the holidays and winter, food insecurity is present all year long.
The Northwest Arkansas Food Bank’s Ninth Annual Jewels of Giving Gala surpassed its fundraising goal by raising more than 2 million meals to feed those with food insecurities.
The goal was to raise 1.8 million meals at the event on Nov. 17 at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center in Rogers. The funds for the meals were raised through sponsorships, silent and live auctions, a wine pull and private donations.
“The Jewels of Giving Gala is one of the premier events in Northwest Arkansas,” said Kent Eikenberry, president and CEO of the Food Bank. “In addition to raising the money to provide more than 2 million meals, we were able to share our story to more than 700 attendees”
“I have really enjoyed watching the Gala grow from about 75-100 people to the size it is today,” he said. “I can only imagine bow the growth will continue”
Following dinner, there were speeches by Walmart executive Megan Crozier, honorary chair of the event; Mike Williams, director of the development at the Food Bank; and Eikenberry as well as several videos that detailed work at the Food Bank and Feeding America. Scottie Williamson from Tyson Food proposed the toast.
“I love supporting the Food Bank because of how far my dollar can go to help feed hungry families,” Crozier said.
This time of the year is traditionally a time when Northwest Arkansas residents give generously to help those with food insecurities. Many organizations are working within their companies as well as conducting food drives to help fill the shelves of the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank.
“People get in the holiday spirit now more than they do the rest of the year,” said Gerald Demory, director of strategic partnerships at the Food Bank.
On Nov. 17, KHBS 40/29 and the Arkansas CW had its fifth annual Feeding Hope Turkey Drive, where area residents could drop off turkeys at Walmart Supercenters in the four counties – Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington -- served by the Food Bank. In addition, the Supercenters in the Fort Smith area also participated in the program. Butterball matched up to 1,000 Butterball turkeys donated during the drive.
KFSM, Channel 5, in conjunction with Armstrong Bank, Harps and Cargill recently conducted a food drive in Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith. Cargill also delivered a truckload of turkeys to the Food Bank.
All the Arvest Bank locations in Northwest Arkansas and KLRC 90.9 of Siloam Springs organized a food drive on Nov. 9. Patrons could drop food goods off at the bank locations and they were donated to the Food Bank.
Kraft/Heinz recently donated a truckload of Stove Top Stuffing and gravy mix to the Food Bank.
The annual Spectrum Brands Corporate Food Drive Challenge ends Nov. 30. In addition to Spectrum Brands, other participants in this year’ challenge are Cargill, Castrol Oil, Englander, Signature Bank of Arkansas, Johnson Controls, Smuckers, General Mills, Kraft Heinz, Shell Oil, Newell Brands, PepsiCo, Simmons Bank, Unilever, ITW, Johnson & Johnson and Mondelez International. The office with the most weight per capita will win a trophy to display at its offices.
Walmart, Bimbo Bakeries USA and Tyson Foods teamed up to donate 20,000 pounds of food to the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank through a partnership with Feeding America.
Representatives from the three organizations visited the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank on Nov. 8 to deliver the food and tour the facility. In addition, they helped pack more than 400 food boxes for senior citizens.
“We are so thankful for the incredible support from these four organizations,” said Kent Eikenberry, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank. “This donation will allow us to help more residents in our local area who are struggling to get the meals needed to live a healthy life.”
There are more than 70,000 people in Northwest Arkansas with food insecurities in the four counties – Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington – served by the Food Bank.
Over the Labor Day weekend, there was a nationwide sales competition within Walmart to see which area could sell the most Tyson hot dogs and Bimbo hot dog buns, said Austin Harms, retail coordinator at the Food Bank. Wade Hunt, regional manager for the Fayetteville area, had the winning team.
Because of the win, Tyson donated 10,000 pounds of protein and Bimbo donated 10,000 pounds of sliced bread to the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank. The two organizations also hosted a lunch for their representatives as well as representatives from Walmart and the Food Bank.
“We want to thank Tyson, Bimbo and Walmart for the donation,” Harms said. This is particularly important as the weather turn colder and we head into the holiday season,”
Do you recall how many times as a child you were asked to use your imagination? I can remember playing baseball by myself. I was the pitcher, the batter and the fielders in an imaginary baseball game in my yard. I remember how the stock rack for our truck magically transformed to become a jailhouse for an imaginary game of cowboys and bandits. I’m sure that more than once, I made the winning free throw with no time remaining on the clock. At least in my imagination I did.
As an adult I imagine slightly different things. I remember a song written and performed by John Lennon called “Imagine.” The best-selling single of his solo career, its lyrics encourage the listener to imagine a world at peace without the barriers of borders or the divisions of religion and nationality, and to consider the possibility that the whole of humanity would live unattached to material possessions. While I agree with the lofty goal put forth by this song, I invite you to take a little less global, but more local look into the word, Imagine.
Let’s look at the life cycle of two food insecure neighbors. Jimmy and Sally get up in the morning and head off to school hungry. It is a proven fact that a child suffering from food insecurity is less attentive in the classroom. They struggle to stay focused. They struggle to learn. They struggle to keep up with the other students and to advance with the rest of their class. Let’s fast forward a few years. Jimmy, Sally and their classmates are 17 or 18 years old. Their classmates are all on track to graduate high school, have made their selections for college, technical school, the military or whatever and are ready to move on with their life. Meanwhile Jimmy and Sally, still lag behind without the background to pursue higher education. They are destined to go straight into the work force and in many cases continue to live day to day struggling to put food on the table.
A few more years down the road, Jimmy and Sally have married and have children. They continue to work at, or close to a minimum wage job. They go to bed at night not knowing which of the bills they can afford to pay that month. They wake the next morning wondering if they have the food to keep their children from heading off to school hungry as they did. Just as Jimmy and Sally struggled through school, they struggle as employees. Food insecure individuals lead a less healthy life style and miss more work than their co-workers. Just as they were less attentive in school they are less productive at work. The cycle continues.
A few more years down the road, Jimmy and Sally are now senior citizens. Sally has been sick. Now Jimmy and Sally have to decide if they can buy the medicine to make Sally better. If they do, there may not be enough money left to buy groceries. They are still hungry. To make matters worse, their grandchildren are coming to visit so Jimmy and Sally wonder what they will feed them. The cycle continues.
Now, I encourage you to imagine how you can help break this cycle. You have heard me say, or have read, that through our membership in Feeding America, and by partnering with other Food Banks, we are able to buy in quantity. By purchasing in quantity and using donated food, we are able to provide 11 meals for every dollar donated to the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank.
We are on pace to distribute nearly 13 million pounds of Food in 2017. Food that comes in one door of our warehouse, and out another door to one of over 150 partner agencies who in turn give it to the food insecure of Northwest Arkansas. Food that will end up in the tummy of Jimmy, Sally and thousands of other children suffering without enough to eat.
As 2017 comes to a close, I ask you to join the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank in our mission to nourish Northwest Arkansas communities by feeding hungry people. If one dollar can provide 11 meals, imagine what your most generous donation will do. Thank you for your continued support and thank you in advance for your future generosity.
Because of you, someone will eat today.
The annual Spectrum Brands Corporate Food Drive Challenge has hit the halfway point. The proceeds of the friendly competition, which ends Nov. 30, will benefit the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank.
In addition to Spectrum Brands, other participants in this year’ challenge are Cargill, Castrol Oil, Englander, Signature Bank of Arkansas, Johnson Controls, Smuckers, General Mills, Kraft Heinz, Shell Oil, Newell Brands, PepsiCo, Simmons Bank, Unilever, ITW, Johnson & Johnson and Mondelez International.
Employees from each participating company will collect non-perishable food items and the donated food will be weighed on Nov. 30. The office with the most weight per capita will win a trophy to display at its offices.
All participating companies are invited to a celebration on Dec. 7, hosted by Spectrum Brands to celebrate the final results and announce the winner.
Items in the competition must be donated by employees and any donations purchased by the participating companies will not be included in the final weight. Cash donations will be included at a rate of three pounds for every dollar given.
Johnson Controls won the competition last year. More than 17,000 pounds of food was donated a year ago from 307 employees.
A year ago, the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank hired Casey Cowan, to be the director of client data tracking. This new position was made possible through the generous funding of the Walmart Foundation. Ms. Cowan was tasked with researching the many different client data tracking programs available and determining the best one to implement within the Food Bank’s member agencies. In April 2017, the Food Bank officially launched their new client data tracking system, Oasis Insight Plus.
The program is a web-based tracking system that gives the Food Bank and its agencies the ability to customize and grow as their needs change. The goal of the new program is to acquire better demographics from member agencies and their clients in order to tell a more detailed story of who is served by the Food Bank.
“By doing this, we hope to learn how to serve our clients better and become a better liaison to our agencies,” Cowan said. “It is important for us to understand who the food insecure truly are in our four-county area so we can develop the most sustainable approach to shortening the line.”
In Benton, Washington, Madison, and Carroll counties there are more than 70,000 people who are food insecure.
“By tracking such demographics as income source, USDA eligibility, employment status and residential status, we hope to work with our partner agencies to understand the many factors that cause people in our community to become food insecure as well,” Cowan said.
“So far, we have implemented Oasis Insight Plus into four food pantries, and one mobile pantry, with the hope of implementing the CDT program into 85 percent of our more than 150 member agencies by the end of 2018, she said.
“It is our hope to understand who is in the line and why so we can truly become part of the solution,” she added.
With the assistance of a $150,000 grant from Walmart Foundation, the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank has been able to award a number of grants to improve the capacity of some of its agencies to better service their clients.
The grants arose from a needs assessment the Food Bank conducted with its allied agencies. In 2016, Walmart stepped forward to provide funding for the capacity grants and agencies have been submitting applications. In addition, the Food Bank also awarded a targeted grant to Cooperative Emergency Outreach to put in a walk-in freezer.
“We are grateful for the support of the Walmart Foundation for this initiative,” said Kent Eikenberry, president and CEO of the Food Bank. “Because of their funding, we were able to invest in projects that help expand our partner agencies’ capacities to serve food insecure families.”
The grants have been beneficial and have achieved the Food Bank’s goal to expand the agencies capacity to help those with food insecurities, said Barbara Carter, agency relations coordinator at the Food Bank.
Under the application process, agencies could seek up to $6,000 to make improvements. Some of the grants included added refrigerators and freezers as well as remodeling to add shelving, electrical work, appliances and kitchen equipment.
The food pantry at the Piney Point Baptist Church in War Eagle added a covered space to provide an area for patrons to get out the weather, Carter said.
“The freezers and refrigerators increased the capacity for those agencies to provide more fresh produce and meat,” she said.
One of the agencies, the First Christian Church of Rogers, added a garden with its grant to provide fresh produce during the summer, she said. They purchased garden tools and a tiller with the grant.
“Our goal was for the agencies to reach more people with more food as well as allowing our partners to be open more hours,” Carter said.
While the grant applications are now closed, Carter hopes to be able to do this again someday. Grants were awarded in the fall of 2016 and again in the spring of 2017.
In visiting the agencies after the projects were completed, Carter said, “The joy of the participants was amazing. It allowed our partners to improve their outreach into the community.
“We saw a definite increase in fresh and perishable foods, such as meats, cheeses and produce, she added.
“We especially want to thank the Walmart Foundation for its contribution to this project,” Carter said. “It was very rewarding and I know we met our goal with the project.”