First Friday Memo
Friday, March 1, 2013
From the desk of Phyllis Haynes
Chief Executive Officer
Julie’s Orchard: Our garden is becoming a place that nurtures the soul as well as the body. I think one of the aspects of our facility I will treasure most is this garden. We didn’t have a lick of soil at the old place, formerly a UPS facility. It was covered in asphalt, so much so that the only thing we had growing was a gnarled tree in a bricked-in “planter” at the front entrance. From the first day we started planning our new distribution center, I knew we would have a garden. Thanks to one of our long-time board members, Trent Roberts, a 10,000-square-foot garden was established on the southeast side of our building. Early last year, a row of blackberry bushes was added in memory of one of our late board members, Johnson Melhorn. This past December, a dedication was held for Julie’s Orchard, an area adjacent to the garden with benches surrounded by six peach trees and five pecan trees. The garden honors Julie Copeland Croy, the youngest and only daughter of Joe and Lynn Copeland, long-time volunteers and supporters of the Foodbank. Joe is our Immediate Past President. I feel good “vibes” when I walk through this garden, the nourishment that comes not only from the fruits and vegetables, but from the love sown there as well.
Hunger Summit: Earlier this week, 70 Garland County residents gathered at First United Methodist Church in Hot Springs for a Hunger Summit. Sponsor partners include Entergy and Weyerhaeuser. The Summit opened with a poverty simulation facilitated by Entergy retiree Linda Barnes. Participants were divided into families and given “scenarios” representing actual situations of families living in poverty. For the next hour, these “families” attempted to negotiate their way through a maze of community services throttled by problems including transportation, lack of money, child care hours and other barriers so many really face on a daily basis. WOW. What an “eye opener”. In follow-up discussion, participants reported, “frustration”, “I had no idea”, “I was embarrassed”, “we felt so helpless”, “I never understood how difficult it is to be poor”. What an opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes – if only for an hour – to understand what our hungry neighbors go through.
Hunger in Arkansas: In April, we will begin our fourth comprehensive survey of hunger relief agencies and the folks that use resources at these agencies. This survey is conducted throughout the United States every four years, sponsored and overseen by our national partner Feeding America. This is one of the largest and most accurate pictures of who is hungry and where they are going for food. The national survey is broken down not only by state, but by food bank as well. From the 2010 survey, we know that we help about 166,200 individuals each year through our partnership with nearly 300 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters. We know that many of the people that receive food are children (35% in 2010) and that 27% of households who access these agencies have at least one employed adult. We expect a major uptick in the numbers reported upon completion of this 2013 survey, given the economic situation of the past five years and the slow recovery. We are looking for volunteers. Come help us conduct the client surveys. If you are interested, please contact me by emailing email@example.com.
Do you know these folks? Steve Williams, Trent Roberts, Joe Copeland, Pat Scherrey, Maria Smedley, Jordan Johnson, Larry Miller, Leo Hauser, Pat Brown, Ron Lasiter, Will Montgomery, Anton Janik, Elizabeth Bintliff, Delia West, Virginia Brissey, Philip Tappan, Dan Robinson, Amy Rossi, Bobbi McDaniel, Neill Sloan, Rob Tiffee? These are all board members of the Arkansas Foodbank, a prestigious group of individuals – business people, retired folks, health advocates – all committed to creating a community where no one has to go hungry. If you know them, drop them a note, give them a call – thank them for their leadership.
Empty Bowls is just around the corner on Thursday, April 25, and already there are dozens of wonderful art works coming in from Arkansas artists. Become a host sponsor, someone who will contribute $250 as leadership sponsors for this event. You will be listed in the program and will receive two tickets to the event. My husband, Bud and I, are host sponsors. Won’t you join us? Contact Tiffany McFadden-Kidd at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you know?
The Arkansas Foodbank is the largest non-governmental distributor of food in the State of Arkansas?
Friday, February 8, 2013
72204: That’s the zip code for one of our pantry partners, the Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas. You may have seen the op-ed piece about Mosaic’s pantry in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette a week or so ago. Pastor Cesar Ortega described the community of 72204 as one of great poverty with over 20% of the residents (2,700 families) falling below the poverty line. And, last year, the church’s pantry, The Orchard, served 17,574 individuals, representing 2,563 households or 95% of the people living in poverty in Zip Code 2004.
Pastor Ortega went on to describe the pantry process of ordering and picking up the food, opening the pantry, inviting the guests in to what appears to be almost a grocery store. Each household is allowed to choose what they want, the number of items of each food – canned goods, produce, meat, etc. – based on the number in the household. It gives these folks a sense of ownership over what they want and need and this “choice” pantry eliminates the throwing away of items that the household doesn’t or cannot eat.
Pastor Ortega gave credit to the partnership The Orchard has with the Arkansas Foodbank that allows them to distribute hundreds of thousands of pounds of food on their very small pantry budget of about $8,000. He did us a great favor in explaining how the Foodbank is such an important part of the 300 food pantries and agencies who are our partners.
Hunger Day at the Capitol: Last Thursday, our statewide partner association, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, sponsored “Hunger Day at the Capitol,” an opportunity for hunger advocates to meet and talk with members of the Arkansas Legislature while they are in session. Many of us attended the event, learning about issues of this legislature, sitting in on committee meetings and having an opportunity to tell our representatives about the prevalence of hunger in our state. Two things were especially delightful about that day. First, we learned that all members of the Senate and many in the House have already signed on to the bi-partisan Legislative Hunger Caucus. The second delight was watching an assembly line of 25-30 legislators decked out in aprons, hair nets and gloves, putting together 10,000 meals for distribution throughout the state. Contact your representative or Senator and ask him/her if they are a member of the Legislative Hunger Caucus. Contact information can be found at:
Hunger Summit in Garland County: On February 26, the Arkansas Foodbank is sponsoring a Hunger Summit in Hot Springs from 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 1100 Central Avenue. Co-sponsored by Entergy-Arkansas and Weyerhaeuser, this Summit will include a poverty simulation as well as discussion groups about hunger in Garland County. Reservations are required and can be made through Peggy Vickers at email@example.com.
Empty Bowls: This 11th annual event will be Thursday, April 25, at the Arkansas Foodbank. This year we are honored to have Dr. Larry and Anne Miller as our honorary chairs. Larry is a member of our board of directors and Anne is immediate past president of the Jewish Federation of Arkansas. Both are long-time Empty Bowl supporters. We always look forward to this event as an opportunity to visit with friends and to bid on wonderful bowls represented in pottery, glass, wood, paintings and even in paper! Tickets are $65 and will become available later in March.
Thank you! In 2012, we made a BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GOAL commitment to distribute 26 million pounds of food and grocery product in 2016. In 2012, we reached our first annual goal toward that mountain top, distributing 16 million pounds, up 12% over 2011. It truly takes a broad community of self-less people who extend their gifts of presence as well as resources to help their less fortunate neighbors. YOU played a prominent role in reaching that 16 million pound goal. YOU remain a vital part of our efforts to continue to find more and better ways to help feed the many people in our state who suffer from hunger daily. And for this we are blessed.
Did you know?
That the Arkansas Foodbank works with nearly 300 food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens and other organizations that feed the hungry in central and south Arkansas?
Friday, January 4, 2013
Happy New Year! I am cheating this time. I am actually writing this on the next-to-last Friday in December. I couldn’t wait because this is a most wonderful time of year at the Arkansas Foodbank. People come to give food and people come to get food. Yesterday, we gave 12 boxes of food to students enrolled in the Single Parent Scholarship Fund program. This nonprofit started years ago and provides scholarships to single parents who are trying to improve their lives through education. Despite scholarships that help them pay for child care, transportation, utilities or other things, many of these students run out of money and their children go hungry. We are so glad to partner with this program, to help give a “leg up” to those trying to improve their lives.
Fudge and Cookies: This morning, Ms. Betty from God’s Love Ministries near Bald Knob, brought some homemade fudge to our warehouse staff, to thank them for their help all year. I thanked her for her ministry to feed the hungry and she, an older woman with a lot going on said, “I am blessed in so many ways. And the Arkansas Foodbank is one of those blessings.” I am blessed all year with the association of folks like Ms. Betty. I can’t name many of them, and even if I could, they wouldn’t fit on two pages of this newsletter. They all do this because of a love for their fellows. Our staff has worked extra hard the past two weeks and volunteers have helped keep our agency mart full, have labeled cans and have boxed apples and oranges. Your donations have continued to support our additional purchase of food.
Hector Elementary School: You may have seen in the news that the elementary school in Hector burned last week. Fortunately no one was hurt, but they lost their school pantry and everything in it. This past fall, with ConAgra’s support, the Arkansas Foodbank helped start a school pantry at this school located north of Russellville. Right now, they are flooded with donations. Many in the community have stepped in to help. But, they will begin depending on us again in February….and we will be there any time they need to fill their pantry shelves.
BHAG: During the early months of this year, the Foodbank staff and board devoted many hours to establishing a five-year plan to double distribution of food. We set a goal and call it our BHAG or “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (with thanks to author Jim Collins, “Good to Great”). Our BHAG goal is: 26 million (pounds) in 2016. Our goal for 2012 was 16 million (up from 14.5 million in 2011) and yesterday that goal was met!
Looking Ahead to 2013: Our goal for food distribution in 2013 is 18 million pounds! We will be working with local communities throughout southern Arkansas to develop and strengthen pantries; holding a Hunger Action Summit in Garland County in late February and a Hunger Walk in Lake Village in the fall. We will open another school pantry in Dumas, one of our underserved areas. The Arkansas Foodbank exists to help local communities receive food and funds for feeding the hungry in their neighborhoods, towns, communities. We value that partnership.
We Value YOU! Very few of the activities described in these First Friday newsletters would be possible without YOU, our donors. And I mean that very sincerely. The outreach, the food, the capacity grants, the gas to run our trucks to Warren, North Little Rock, Conway, Hot Springs, Clinton, Arkadelphia and many other locations; the drivers that maneuver those trucks; the men in the warehouse who pull and load the food for about 290 pantries in our 33 counties; the utilities that pay to keep our fresh food fresh and safe from bacteria and spoilage – I could go on and on. So much of this is possible because of you. I wish you a very happy 2013, full of joy, success, friendships, love, health and healing – whatever you wish for those you love and for you.
Friday, December 7, 2012
Childhood Food Insecurity: In the state of Arkansas, 19.2% of our population is food insecure – 27.8% are children. What does that mean – “food insecure?” It means that these individuals, families, children, senior citizens, don’t know where their next meal is coming from. They may be the kids down the street who run to a grandmother’s house (see above) because they know she will feed them. It may be a mother who makes “tomato soup” out of packets of ketchup and water, packets that she has discreetly pocketed from fast food restaurants. It may be a single elderly person who spreads his peanut butter thinly on the bread to make it go further. Stories of poverty and hunger can sometimes hit close to home.
A case in point is Oliver (or Ollie, as we like to call him) is our assistant facilities worker and all-around helper, a delightfully pleasant and always cheerful young man. Ollie is a Katrina evacuee who came to work at the Foodbank more than five years ago. Yesterday, Ollie and I were talking about Christmas trees. He said, “We never had a Christmas tree in my house. I lived with my grandmother and she would buy us things whenever she had some money, which was not often at Christmas. But, at Christmastime, we would go to the Superdome (in New Orleans) where they were giving away donated toys. We had to get there at five in the morning to get in line. We were allowed one toy. My favorite was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game.” May you and yours have a blessed holiday season.
Community: I have always been fond of, and taken to heart, that old African saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I see this true every day, whether it is my neighborhood, our staff, pantry volunteers, or other groups who have come together to address an issue that needs to be resolved. YOU are our “village” because you come together with us to help alleviate the hunger that is so prevalent in our communities and in our state. I often hear “my donation is so little compared to the need.” I often talk about how we distribute millions of pounds of food each year. Many of you may think that your contribution is a “drop in the bucket,” but, you should see it from this side. When the envelopes and online donations pile up (and thank goodness, they do), those “drops” become “pailfuls” of support that help us get a semi-trailer load of apples for $6,401; spend more than $8,500 a month on gasoline to make 53 monthly deliveries to outlying areas, etc. I don’t thank you enough, so please accept my sincere thanks, and I ask you – keep those drops, big and little – coming. It’s tough out there.
TODAY KARK is winding up our second annual week-long “4 the Greater Good” telethon to raise awareness and support for hunger in Arkansas. Many thanks to morning crew members Mallory, Matt, Greg and Wendy, evening anchors Bob Clausen and Jessica Dean, marketing director Allan Snyder, news managing editor Greg Yarbrough, reporter Deedra Wilson and everyone behind the cameras and in the production booth. Yes, it does take a village!
Last Thursday, Dianne Williams and Peggy Vickers, with Program Services, and I went to Stuttgart (Arkansas County) for a “hunger summit.” Curtis Criner with Holman Heritage Community Center gathered a dozen people who are concerned about hunger needs in their community for the summit. Stuttgart is a volunteer-driven community with people who care. Three hundred children in a town of about 9,000 are hungry. Many grandmothers in the area feed hosts of kids who have no food at home or nowhere else to go. One grandmother said she never knows if she is going to have one extra child for supper or 12! The purpose of this summit was to identify what is needed to end hunger in Stuttgart and what are the resources that help do this. The meeting ended with a commitment from each of the attendees to organize an effort to alleviate childhood hunger in Arkansas County.
Did you know . . . ?
. . . That $1 can provide the equivalent of 3 meals when donated to the Arkansas Foodbank?
Please share this fact with friends, family and colleagues. If you are not sharing news of the Foodbank’s good work, who is? We appreciate your help.
Friday, November 2, 2012
Joannie Cayce runs Cayce’s Charities in Fordyce. Joannie recently sent us a long note of thanks. Here is an excerpt: “When the saying, ‘accidents happen’ becomes a reality for poor families, it comes with such devastation because any kind of accident or emergency is always an enormous tragedy because they all live on the edge of collapse with only us as a safety net. A poor family called from a neighbor’s house yesterday, needing food. I told them to come to the pantry but the dad told me they had no transportation…I found out there were three children ages 14, 8 and 2 in the house. The mother is disabled. The father had a job working in the log woods for cash until the week before when he broke his leg without insurance or compensation. Since his accident they had stretched their food as far as they could…the children had eaten all the food in the cabinet and now they were hungry. They had applied for food stamps but had to wait until they used his last paycheck, then they had a 15 day waiting period. The father broke down and cried as he told me he had never had to ask for help before. I went to the house with food. They were poor and in a destitute situation before the accident….they don’t have luxuries like running water, air conditioning, cable TV, phone, transportation. Before the accident they were just a poor family trying to make rent and buy food and they didn’t ask for help, they just lived below the poverty level and squeezed by as best they could.”
Our annual agency appreciation luncheon was last Thursday, October 25th. More than 200 folks from the 33 counties we serve were there to enjoy camaraderie, catfish and learning from each other. Thanks to a grant from the Windgate Foundation, the Arkansas Foodbank was able to give out checks totaling $100,000 to 74 agencies from 32 of our 33 counties.
At the luncheon, I visited with Deborah, who, with her husband, mother, father and mother-in-law distribute food to the hungry in Bradley County. Deborah told me, almost with tears in her eyes, “You don’t really understand how hard some people’s lives are until you go to their houses, some with no curtains on the walls, no running water, some with no electricity. Until you see it first hand, it is hard to believe that some of our very own in this wonderful country of ours have to live without so much.” I thought about the drapes I had recently bought and wondered how many meals that purchase would have provided. I thought about the recent unbearably hot summer and how lucky I was to have an air conditioned house. And I realized how important our job is – yours and mine - to help others get the very basic necessities of life, starting with food.
Retirement: Recently I announced to the board of directors and staff of the Arkansas Foodbank that I am retiring next summer as CEO of the Arkansas Foodbank. There are two reasons for this decision:
My personal philosophy of leadership is that no one should stay in a CEO position for too long, especially at a nonprofit. A nonprofit is a community-owned entity. But, too often a nonprofit becomes associated with its long-time leader and ceases to be recognized, or to thrive, independently. We have a strong organization, built by our board, staff, donors and volunteers, both current and past. I will leave the position of CEO knowing that a new CEO will have a strategic plan in place to lead the Foodbank to reach beyond our goal to double distribution. I know that the strong leaders on the Foodbank board will choose a successor who will bring fresh views and energy to our mission. My other reason involves seeking other opportunities, on my own as well as with my family. There is so much to be done to help make our communities better places to live. And, at my age, less and less time to do that! We are all grateful for your support, me especially. I value your commitment to the mission of the Arkansas Foodbank and I value your friendship and support for my leadership. And I will always remember this.
Did you know?
Arkansas has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country – 19.2 percent according to the latest USDA numbers. Thank goodness, there are places like Cayce Charities.
Please share this fact with friends, family and colleagues. If you are not sharing news of the Foodbank’s good work, who is? We appreciate your help.
Friday, September 7, 2012
Age is a State of Mind: Last Monday morning, I was cruising the warehouse and stopped to visit with Dale Prater, Central Baptist Church, who was loading up his truck with small packages of juice, soup, crackers, milk and other goodies. Dale was delivering these foods to Bethany Sharing Center, a mission of Bethany Baptist Church. Dale said that later that day, a group of “young at heart” women (the youngest is 74) would be filling up 100 backpacks to deliver later in the week to Lynch Drive Elementary and Woodpark Elementary in North Little Rock. “These ladies are amazing,” said Dale. They pack these backpacks, deliver them, then go back on Monday to pick them up and start the process again. I am so blessed to be associated with good people like Dale and his ladies. What a great mission.
Yikes! I went to the grocery store yesterday after a month’s absence. (My husband usually goes for us.) Imagine my surprise when I priced a gallon of milk (store brand) at $3.29 and a loaf of bread at $2.49! I spent $53.00 and got NO meat, some cheese, the milk, splurged on some baking chocolate to make brownies for our staff and assorted other items. (Cinnamon was only $1.00. That was a good thing.) It really hit home to me how difficult it is becoming to feed a family when food prices are increasing more than take-home pay. Recently, we asked some pantry clients to write down why that local pantry meant so much to them. Here is one response: “You all are truly an answer to our prayers. I just moved back from Texas to try to help my sister who is a single parent out of work and I am a stroke patient on disability. You have no idea how much you are helping us.” Another one reads: “I am a 72-year-old Grandma got 4 Grandkids to take care of and we been going hungry by the end of the month. I thank God for you.”
Hunger Action Month: The entire month of September is nationally celebrated as Hunger Action Month, a time to not only BE more aware of hunger in our communities, but to take ACTION to alleviate hunger. Our theme, one for each week is Like, Visit, Learn, Donate. A calendar of the month’s activities is enclosed with this letter. I hope you will become involved.
Some of our Supporters: We are so grateful to the thousands of individuals, like you, who support our vision to create a community where no one has to go hungry. We also have so many business supporters and foundations as well. Some of the foundations that support our programs are: MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the King Foundation, Walmart Foundation, Newmans’ Own, Share our Strength, Cabe Foundation, Ross Foundation, Ottenheimer Foundation, as well as many others. A donor wrote me last month to say, “I know my donation is small potatoes…..” I replied, “NO donation is small potatoes.” We state that we can provide the equivalent of three meals for $1. I repeat: NO donation is small potatoes.
In the Garden: Two days after Labor Day, our “A Team” gardeners were on their knees planting brussel sprouts and cauliflower. Already in the garden, ready to pick, are soybeans. When we say we are providing more nutritious food to those in need, we mean it!
New Pantry in Sparkman: We are excited to report that a new pantry opened yesterday in Sparkman (eastern Dallas County). This is where none existed. The mayor of Sparkman, Henry Nalls, said it had been a vision of one of his aldermen for years, but the fellow passed away before his vision could be realized. Mayor Nalls has enlisted the entire community to volunteer to establish and serve this pantry. They have renovated a donated building, set up the distribution process and are ready to go. Yesterday was their Open House and the Foodbank delivered a truckload of food in honor of their opening.
Did you know?
That September is Hunger Action Month. Become Involved: Like, Visit, Learn, Donate. Check out our website for details on how you can become involved.
First Foodbank Friday is provided on a monthly basis to our supporters and partners who advance the cause of philanthropy in our efforts to feed the hungry in central and southern Arkansas.
Friday, August 3, 2012
Everyone is talking about the weather. And that is no joke. It’s not just about the heat we’ve experienced this summer. Almost all of Arkansas is in an extreme drought situation, with nearly one-third in an exceptional drought situation. The national weather news is not much better. Two-thirds of the continental United States is under moderate to exceptional drought with 40 percent of U.S. counties declared agricultural disaster areas. What this means is higher food prices all the way around: for the Foodbank, for pantries, soup kitchens and other organizations that depend on the Foodbank and, most important, for the folks who depend upon those pantries, soup kitchens and shelters. It will affect all of us at the grocery store, but more so those who are challenged by tight incomes. We expect food donations will be down and the food we purchase will go up. Thanks to you, our donors, we have additional funds to purchase more food while it is still less expensive — food that will help our pantries keep their shelves stocked.
90,000 pounds of food: What does that mean? Thanks to the generosity of Kroger and Grainger, two very supportive corporations, we have been able to purchase two semi-trailer loads of canned vegetables and peanut butter. This will be distributed as soon as it comes in to help supplement the food we already have. Believe it or not, these 90,000+ pounds will only last a month for our nearly 300 partner agencies.
Last call for Golf-for-Food: If you are a golfer who enjoys a wonderful course, gather up three of your friends and come out to Chenal Country Club on August 27th for our 16th annual Golf-for-Food tournament. This annual event is sponsored by our group of young professionals, the Harvesters. They have been busy securing sponsors as well as teams. We have a special opportunity for our friends to visibly support the Foodbank: Hole Sponsorships. If you are not a golfer, you can sponsor a hole for $250. Our board of directors will be one of the potential 32 sponsors. You can be one as well with your name emblazoned on a placard next to the hole. You may also want to purchase “golf ball” tickets at $10 each. The afternoon of the tournament, KTHV Weatherman Tom Brannon will “drop” the balls and the ball that goes in hole will win $1,000. For information on supporting this annual event, check out our website: http://www.arkansasfoodbank.org or email Leighanne Alford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cooking Matters: Last Friday we wrapped up our pilot Cooking Matters class, a six-week course to teach families how to prepare more nutritious, yet easy-to-make food. This class, taught by volunteer chef Christie Ison, included a visit to a local supermarket to price foods and read nutritional labels. Families were encouraged to bring their children as well and it was a beautiful sight to see an eight-year-old carefully chopping up a bell pepper for Spicy Chinese rice and vegetables. The opportunity to conduct this class was provided by a $10,000 gift from one of our most loyal and dedicated donors. Six families graduated from Cooking Matters. One of the mothers said, “I am so grateful to have this opportunity to learn how to cook well with my children. I am very heavy and I don’t want them to grow up that way.”
Summer Feeding: Many children can rely on meals during the school year when both breakfast and lunch are available to them. But in the summertime, lots of children may have to do without. This summer we also sponsored summer feeding programs at five Boys and Girls Clubs. Each week-day, children received a healthy breakfast and lunch. The program will continue until mid-August, just about the time school starts again. SiKia Brown, one of our dedicated employees, coordinated both the Cooking Matters class and the Summer Feeding Program, often working from 6 in the morning until 7 at night to make sure all the food was delivered and ready to go. A total of 17,800 meals were served in June alone!
In the Garden: Despite the heat and dry weather, our garden is producing squash, okra, peppers and tomatoes for our pantries. We also have honey for sale from our bees. The Foodbank has many blessings and wants to share with those who do not.
Did you know?
That September is Hunger Action Month, when the entire community is encouraged to learn more about the prevalence of hunger and how to become involved. Watch for it!
Friday, July 6, 2012
Whoooo-Hooooo! ConAgra Employees! Back in the Spring, ConAgra challenged its employees at seven plants around the country to raise funds for their local communities and food banks who serve those communities. The location with the most employee votes was in Russellville, Arkansas! They generated enough votes to win $30,000 for the Arkansas Foodbank to implement a school pantry AND a backpack program at the nearby Hector schools. ConAgra employees are generous givers in the Russellville area. School officials are excited about this opportunity. We are grateful to those dedicated ConAgra folks who believe in making their community a better, less hungry place to live.
Today’s THV Weatherman Tom Brannon, sidekick James Staats (Golden Corral) and a host of volunteers and Arkansas Foodbank staff traveled to nine central Arkansas communities to collect cereal as part of the 12th annual Summer Cereal Drive. From Morrilton to Cabot, Pine Bluff to Beebe, our dedicated crews showed up at 5 a.m. in front of Walmart stores, Knights Groceries and Brookshires to collect cereal for pantries in those areas. Meanwhile, nearly 80 small, medium and large businesses, churches, government agencies and hospitals collected cereal, all for children and their families this summer. Over 204,000 boxes of cereal were collected!!!!! The celebration breakfast will be held on-air Thursday morning, July 12, at the Golden Corral in North Little Rock. Tune in to Today’s THV This Morning or, better yet, come by and thank these wonderful volunteers who believe that no child should have to go hungry.
L’Oreal has become a very active partner in the fight to end hunger in our state. L’Oreal employees regularly volunteer in the Foodbank warehouse. Recently, the company, located in North Little Rock, has established a pilot program to donate boxes to the Arkansas Foodbank for distributing food. Their goal is to donate 25,000 boxes in the next year.
Cooking Matters is a six-week course developed by Share our Strength to help families learn to cook healthy, low costs meals. We are half-way through our pilot course, held every Friday afternoon. On a recent afternoon, I participated with several families and their children to prepare Chinese Vegetables and Rice. It was joyful to watch as children helped their mothers select the carrots, squash and chicken to put into the dish. To see an 8-year-old girl carefully slicing a zuchinni squash while her mother looked on. You should have seen her carefully manuervering the knife just like the chef instructed, her little tongue in the corner of her mouth as she focused on her work. This is good, I thought. This is good: healthy food, family involvement, teaching children the fun of cooking and the value of good food. After the meal was prepared, the families sat together and talked while they ate the food they had prepared.
Families. We are blessed with them (and sometimes cursed). One of the most wonderful, loving families I know is the Copeland Family. Joe is the president of our Board of Directors and runs several Performance Foodservice plants in Arkansas, St. Louis and Mississippi. His wife, Lynn, has been an office volunteer at the Foodbank for years. The Copelands are a close family, with adult children spread from St. Louis to Fort Worth to, recently, Memphis, three boys and a girl. Last Sunday, their youngest child, Julie, a young mother of an 18-month old son, lost her two-year battle with cancer. We have prayed with that family for all of those two years, sending cards to Julie, offering words of hope to her parents. Just like her parents, Julie was a giver. To honor her memory, the employees of Performance Foodservice established the Julie Copeland Croy Fund to raise money for six fruit trees (one for each of the family members) and a bench to be located near the Foodbank garden. This will be a lasting tribute to a young, courageous mother, a place of growth where the trees will bear fruit for years to come, feeding hungry people in our community.
Did you know?
That the Arkansas Foodbank has a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” to double distribution of food to 26 million pounds in 2016?
Please share this fact with friends, family and colleagues. If you are not sharing news of the Foodbank’s good work, who is? We appreciate your help.
FOR A PDF OF JULY'S ISSUE, CLICK THIS LINK:
The Summer Cereal Drive kicked off this morning with a breakfast at Golden Corral, hosted by Today’s THV’s Tom Brannon. Nearly 100 businesses are involved in this campaign, now in its 11th year. The Summer Cereal Drive was conceived years ago, the idea being that, with school out, many kids won’t get that free or reduced-price lunch and need food. Since then, more than one million boxes of cereal – yes, a million! – have been collected from businesses in communities throughout central Arkansas. Several years ago, Tom added “live on-air” collections in towns and cities as far away as Clinton, Pine Bluff and Malvern. This year is no exception. A big thanks goes to Tom and to James Staats, manager of the Golden Corral in North Little Rock. Both of these guys are tireless when it comes to doing things for kids.
Cooking Matters/Shopping Matters is a six-week course developed by the national Share our Strength to help families learn how to get real value out of their grocery shopping, and then how to cook those foods for healthy, low costs meals. The Arkansas Foodbank is offering Cooking Matters/Shopping Matters this summer, starting Friday, June 15. Each week, parents and their kids from nearby Dalton Boys and Girls Club and Meadowcliff Elementary School will come to the Foodbank to actually prepare and eat nutritious meals. Each week families will also take home a bag of groceries to prepare in their own kitchens as well. I have had some of the Cooking Matters food – corn and black bean salad, spaghetti, carrots with hummus, even a healthy recipe for chocolate cake. Yum!!! This course is just one of the ways, like the Cereal Drive, that the Foodbank is working to reduce childhood obesity in our state.
Summer Feeding is another way we are working for kids this summer. This is the first year we are a sponsoring this program, an effort to keep children healthy during the summer months when they are not in school. The Foodbank will provide food to five locations in central Arkansas for six weeks this summer, healthy meals for children in a safe place.
The Arkansas Foodbank takes its mission seriously. We are an organization that is a cornerstone of hunger relief that acquires and distributes, through local and national partnerships, large quantities of food and other resources to hungry people. Our values reflect our commitment to this mission. We are:
• Passionate champions for the hungry
• Responsible stewards of all donations, managing our work, our finances and our products with integrity, honesty and transparency
• Collaborators who foster strong relationships with others to help end hunger
• Respectful of the dignity of our clients
• Willing to do what it takes to get the job done
• Always striving for continuous improvement.
WOW! The National Association of Letters Carriers food drive on Saturday, May 12, brought in a record 121,433 pounds! Letter carrier David Mason, led the charge, assisted by fellow carrier Dwayne Ward. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) was also a sponsor this year, providing hundreds of thousands of paper sacks that were distributed to homes on their routes by the letter carriers. Local households responded generously to the call. Many of you, no doubt, put out bags of dried goods for your letter carrier to pick up. Thank you for your generosity and thanks also to the letter carrier who is on your route. This food will help feed many, many hungry people all through the summer.
The Arkansas Foodbank is alive with, well, living things. We have been in this building for 13 months now and outside is thriving. There are a mess of wildflowers along the edges and into the wooded area. The garden is ripe with lettuce, turnips, sugar snap peas and oncoming with peppers, squash and other goodies. Bluebirds have been spotted coming in and out of the three houses. And a killdeer has made her nest among the greens. Equally alive is the inside of the building. Volunteers come and go each day of the work week and on Saturdays, stocking shelves, sorting salvage, helping in the office and in the garden. Food is being distributed at a record pace. If you have not visited the Foodbank recently, or at all, please make plans to come out and see us. You will be blessed to see how your donations are helping us feed the hungry.
Food distribution is up, but so is need. During the first quarter of our fiscal year (January through March), the Foodbank distributed a record 3.8 million pounds, an increase of 30% over this time last year. We have stepped up our recruitment of nutritious food, looking for fresh vegetables as well as protein and dairy products for our pantries to give to their clients. Thus far this year we have received potatoes, cabbage and lettuce among other vegetables. This week volunteers have picked nearly 100 pounds of garden produce from our garden. You know, some folks have spread the word that we are “selling” our food. That is a wild and inaccurate statement. Really, more than 50% of what we distribute is distributed at no cost at all – produce is one example; food we receive through the Arkansas state purchasing program is another. Some of our donated food has a handling fee, a maximum $.18 per pound. This fee helps cover the cost of transportation and “value-added” packaging. For example, a recent truckload of produce from Arizona cost $3,000 in transportation costs plus $2,500 for the produce to be packaged at the point of origin.
There are more people who are hungry. We carefully track our numbers. Monthly reports from our partner agencies tell us how many folks are using their services. A representative sample of agencies report that the number of people coming in for food has increased 16% over the first quarter of 2011 and 31% over the past three years. Many of our pantries are struggling. Their church budgets are stretched to the max and donations are slow to come in. It is our commitment to make sure a partner agency can come to the Arkansas Foodbank, expecting to receive a variety of good, quality food – always.
Board Profile – Our long standing board member, Trent Roberts, alias, “Mr. Greenjeans”, was honored last week by the Arkansas Volunteer Coordinators’ Association as “Volunteer of the Year” at a ceremony attended by folks from all across the state. Trent has been a member of the board since the Foodbank began in 1984. But, he is anything but “Dead Wood” on the board. Trent can be depended upon for leadership, personal financial support and as a recruiter of others to our mission. He has a degree in Agriculture from the University of Arkansas and has spent his career in agricultural-related jobs, retiring as a farm commodities broker with Scott & Associates. Trent is a past president of the board and currently serves as Secretary/Treasurer. Trent walks the walk of the “quintessential” board member.
The Summer Cereal Drive is now in its 11th year. The drive started with a school competition in April. Twenty-two schools participated collecting a record 27,233 boxes of cereal. The business drive begins June 1. Our friends at KTHV Channel 11 have been sponsors of this massive “food drive” since its inception and local celebrity Tom Brannon continues to come up with new ways to collect and celebrate the collection of cereal. Do you know what a “flash mob” is?
The National Association of Letters Carriers food drive is Saturday, May 12. Please help us collect a large number of canned goods to help our pantries meet the growing need. Put a bag of groceries by your mailbox the day before Mother’s Day. And remind your neighbors about this drive!
Spring always brings renewal to my life. Buds on trees bring hope, lambs bring promise of new beginnings, flowers bring splashes of color to a previously drab environment. Spring is a particularly good metaphor for what we are engrossed in at the Arkansas Foodbank. We just celebrated the first full year in our new distribution center! And we have launched a multi-faceted planning process to bring more food to more people.
In January, the board of directors approved a five-year goal – to double distribution in five years – to 26 million pounds annually by 2016. This is our Big Hairy Audacious Goal (or BHAG), so named because it actually IS a big and audacious goal. We said we could double distribution in five years with this new building and now we are planning to do just that – re-thinking hunger and the best strategies to address hunger; identifying the most strategic programs, and installing a comprehensive fund development program to insure that these strategies can be implemented.
On Monday, I spoke to the women’s circle at First Christian Church in Little Rock. It was at the invitation of one of our faithful supporters who has become a dear friend. First Christian has a food pantry that is more than 10 years old. The pantry is a partnership of church volunteers from Faith Lutheran, First Baptist and First Christian churches. This pantry was the first one I visited when I came to the Foodbank over 13 years ago. The tables were decorated with pots of lovely spring flowers and little chocolate eggs. Dessert was provided by the women in attendance and was yummy. But, what I enjoyed most was the fact that many of those in attendance were pantry volunteers. Supporters of the pantry and supporters of the Foodbank as well. How wonderful to be among such givers.
Board Profile – Elizabeth Bintliff, one of our wonderful board members, was just promoted to Vice President of Africa Area Programs at Heifer International. Elizabeth is a native of Cameroon who joined Heifer in 2000 as the regional assistant in Atlanta, before moving to Little Rock. As Vice President, she leads programmatic aspects of Heifer International's work in Africa, managing a portfolio of over $10 million in 12 countries. She earned a Bachelor's Degree in International Affairs from Kennesaw State University in Georgia, and a Masters in African Studies from Yale University. In 2010 she was selected as one of the "40 Under 40" up-and-comers by Arkansas Business. She was the 2011 Chair of Power of the Purse, a program of the Women's Foundation of Arkansas, which promotes women in philanthropy and the empowerment of young girls and is a member of the Arkansas Women's Leadership Forum, a network of female executives. She’s a working mom, she and husband Jason have two kids.
Empty Bowls – Last night we celebrated our tenth annual Empty Bowls, our signature special event and fundraiser. As always, it was wonderful to see so many people who are concerned about the many people who are hungry all around us in our community. It was delightful to taste the food and bid on pieces of art and other gifts that help raise much-needed funds. In the next issue, I will recap the highlights (once I have time to review and digest this wonderful event). In the meantime . . .
The National Association of Letters Carriers food drive is just a month away – on Staurday, May 12, letter carriers around the country will collect bags of food that have been left next to mailboxes, especially for the hungry. Non-perishable only! Don’t forget to put out your bag!
Foodbank gets highest AIB score: The Arkansas Foodbank has received a “Superior” rating from the American Institute of Baking. Out of a possible 1,000 points, the Foodbank scored 980! That rating testifies to our quality in safe food handling, sanitary working conditions and food safety training for employees. This 980 rating is the highest ever received by a Feeding America food bank. Only seven of the 200 Feeding America food banks in the country have achieved a superior rating. This is one more example of how the Arkansas Foodbank is leading in serving disadvantaged Arkansans with high quality food handled safely and with integrity.
The Poultry Federation donates 48,000 pounds of protein: Last week, the Poultry Federation held its board meeting and annual Alllied members meeting at our Foodbank. Members of the Federation, including Simmons, George, Tyson and others donated a truckload of chicken products including more than 50,000 eggs (4,300 dozen) to benefit hungry Arkansans. This donation will be distributed throughout the state to all six of the food banks in Arkansas that are members of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. In addition, members of the Federation contributed nearly 500 pounds of peanut butter for distribution to hungry children. We are so grateful to Executive Director Marvin Childers for making this donation possible.
Wakefield Elementary food pantry: In the fall, Wakefield Elementary School, not far from the Foodbank in southwest Little Rock, became the first school food pantry sponsored by the Foodbank. We have long felt that a school pantry was a wonderful way to help hungry children and their families. Often, the backpack foods children brought home – food meant for one child for an entire weekend¬ – were actually eaten by other members of the household, their siblings and even parents who were also hungry. Each week, the Foodbank delivers the food and then volunteers from Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church pack the boxes which are distributed by school counselors later in the day. The school has recently started a PTA which has become very supportive of the pantry. This has become a community partnership and a collaborative effort to help children and their families in need.
Faith Fellowship Church in Garland County has received the “Organization of the Year Award” from Hot Springs Village. The church runs a food pantry that has grown tremendously to serve nearly 300 hungry families in northern Garland County each week. Food pantry director Gary Cole credits the Arkansas Foodbank for providing food to meet this growing demand. We credit Gary, his family and the many volunteers who come to Little Rock to get the food, bag it and distribute it every week.
Amboy Community Pantry: In North Little Rock is open two mornings a week for the Amboy community. Mayor Pat Hays and City Hall have been very supportive of the pantry, having loaned them the use of an old fire station for their distribution site. Several nearby churches support the pantry with volunteers, donations and fundraisers. I visited it recently and found much to like, especially the way they distribute food using a shopping list. When clients come in, they are handed a list with groupings: canned goods, pasta, frozen foods and miscellaneous (cornbread mix, peanut butter, jelly, etc.). Clients choose what they want, with a limit from each grouping (larger families, of course, get more). What is so cool about this is that no food is wasted; no one has to take food they don’t like or won’t eat. Too, it recognizes the dignity of being able to choose.
Two ways YOU can help these pantries and many others:
Empty Bowls – Get your tickets now for Thursday, April 5, 6-9 p.m. for an evening of delicious food from 16 restaurants, silent and live auctions of paintings, pottery, glass, wood, jewelry, trips and other good things. Tickets are available on line at arkansasfoodbank.org or by contacting Peggy Vickers at 501.569.4317 or e-mail to email@example.com.
Check out Hunger – All Kroger stores in central Arkansas have placards at their check-out stations that allow you to add $1, $2 or $5 to your grocery bill. Check it out!
Need, Already High, Keeps Rising: A sampling of our food pantries’ monthly reports from 2011 reveals an increase in demand of almost 30% since 2009. This is backed up anecdotally through conversations with pantry volunteers who come to the Foodbank and by our visits to our partner agencies who distribute the food we supply. Many of the needy are working people, families whose salaries just don’t stretch far enough in this economic climate. Thanks to your generosity in December, we were able to purchase a truckload of peanut butter and cereal to distribute in January when our partners’ own donations are down and church budgets are so stretched. Peanut butter and cereal are always well received by the people who come to these pantries for help.
Marianna Larger Parish Delta Dream: In 2004, through a partnership with the United Methodist Church, we started a food pantry in Marianna (Lee County) because there were none on our radar. Last week, Dianne Williams (Chief Program Officer) and I went to Marianna for a visit with Evelyn Shackelford and three local ministers whose churches help support the pantry. We were glad to hear of the local community involvement, including volunteers who prepare 100 backpacks each week to distribute to children in elementary school. As we were leaving, an elderly woman walked up asking for food. She was dressed in a shabby hat, a baggy coat and those thick stockings that some older people wear to keep their legs warm. She clasped her purse in her hands. I nearly cried, I was so touched. “This is why we do what we do,” I thought, “because of this woman and so many others.”
Community Garden News: I came to work Monday and saw a bunch of cabbage plants neatly planted in rows and four fig trees! Mr. Greenjeans and his weekend crew from Central High School had been busy. The fig trees were donated by residents of Woodland Heights, a retirement high-rise in Little Rock. Soon 30+ blackberry bushes will be planted. These and a small plaque were donated in memory of one of our former board members, Johnson Melhorn, who passed away in December. Johnson was a caring and generous man, beloved by all who knew him. He will be missed. We are grateful that he shared three years of his life as a leader and supporter of the Arkansas Foodbank.
Lake Hamilton Elementary School:
Gifted and Talented third graders are learning the value of a penny. In December, they collected 4,600 pennies to donate to the Foodbank to buy food. Last week, I drove to Pearcy to visit these children and to tell them about the Foodbank and how their pennies helped. I got so many questions! “How many people get food?” “How old is the oldest person who gets food?” “Where does the food go?” “How old are you?” I’m not falling for that, I thought. “How old do you think I am?” He replied, “Somewhere between 60 and 70.” Children are delightful and I am so happy to see them learning about giving, like these kids, and volunteering, like Central High students.
Canstruction: We are delighted that volunteer Donna Csunyo is again spearheading Canstruction. It is going on now at the Clinton Library. Volunteers from seven architectural and construction firms are building structures out of thousands of cans of food that will be donated to the Foodbank once the event concludes February 15. Come out to the library to see these amazing structures. In the past, we have seen such creations as a box of cereal, Sponge Bob Square Pants and a castle complete with moat. This year there’s a giant goldfish bowl, a shark and surfboard made out of cans of tuna, a giant cupcake, and a dam with bottles of water flowing from the spillways. All very clever. Firms participating are: Fennell Purifoy, SCM, RPPY, CDI, Whitsell Evans Rascoe, Cromwell and Nabholz.
Empty Bowls – Tenth Anniversary: Mark your calendar! Come celebrate a decade of Empty Bowls on Thursday evening, April 5. Sponsors are lining up, as are artists who are creating items for our silent and live auctions. Chefs have agreed to step in and prepare wonderful food (more details about the tasty treats and auction items next month). I invite you to join our supporting cast – the Power of Ten, in honor of our tenth anniversary. A donation of $250 includes two tickets to the event, your name in the program as a Power of Ten member, and other features. If you would like to be among the Power of Ten supporters, contact Peggy Vickers at 501.569.4317 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you know?
That 2,059 people volunteered 17,000 hours of service to the Arkansas Foodbank during 2011
First Foodbank Friday is provided on a monthly basis to our supporters and partners who advance the cause of philanthropy in our efforts to feed the hungry in central and southern Arkansas.
New Years’ Resolutions: We all make them. We all break them, or at least, I do! But, this year I have made a resolution that I intend to keep. I am determined that the Arkansas Foodbank will have enough food for our pantries, shelters and soup kitchens during 2012. This is personally important to me because our 285 member agencies depend upon us to help them provide food in their communities. Many of them report that we are their ONLY or MAJOR source for food. And while other sources are drying up, pantry budgets are being cut, federal programs are declining, so it is absolutely vital that the Foodbank is a dependable, constant source for help. You were there for these pantries in 2011 when we distributed a record number of pounds of food. Please join me in keeping this new year’s resolution. Many of our neighbors are depending on us.
TOPPS on National Television: Last month, Chelsea Clinton, a new reporter on NBC’s “Rock Center,” magazine show with Brian Wiliams, came to Pine Bluff to do her first story and her subject was Annette Dove, founder of TOPPS, Inc. Look for it online if you haven ‘t seen it. A few years ago Annette started a feeding program on her home stove and the trunk of her car. Today she feeds afterschool meals to 300 kids. She has recruited tutors from UAPB so her kids get homework help, she provides training in public speaking, makes sure they go to cultural events like plays and concerts – things middle-class kids do. She takes kids appear to be headed for juvenile hall or jail and points them toward careers and college! On TV, people got to see Annette in action and hear her and her kids talk about the many lives being changed, and some great nice donations have come in to her program, including a check for $5,000 from Michael J. Fox! She’s been very generous in saying that without the Foodbank, her program could not exist. I want everyone to hear her hopeful message and start looking at these kids the way she does and not our usual stereotypes! And listen for her on the “Tavis Smiley Show” (locally on KUAR-FM 89.1) in the near future. She’s doing a taped interview at the end of this month that will air nationally. Congratulations, Annette!
So many blessings: Christmas at the Foodbank is……. Well, like Christmas! So many food drives, so many wonderful stories of businesses, individuals, church groups and others dropping off donations. One young man came in with a significant gift, $2,000. Joel had gotten interested in hunger relief during Pulaski Academy’s annual food drive and he wanted to help make a difference. Another young person, Elizabeth, brought in $8.00 that she had raised selling her cupcakes. The employees of a local insurance company brought us a donation that they had collected in honor of their bosses, instead of giving them material gifts. And every day, there are youth groups who come to help pack oranges into boxes, stock shelves and otherwise help. Arkansans are truly caring people. And in these tough economic times, we all reach out to help our neighbors.
Our weekly volunteers: We have a slew of volunteers who help us on a regular basis, stocking shelves, helping with office work and otherwise making a difference in keeping the Foodbank going. We are so grateful to these folks: Kay Seay, Sammye Taylor, Karen Gambel, Jackie Brown, Peter Reed, Rebecca McDowell, Debbie Romine, Jen Rosenbaum, Peggy Grenard, Kathleen Love, Sean Durham, Jo Renshaw, Elaine Bultena, Louise Gutierrez, Lynn Copeland, Carol Leggett, Jesse Anderson, Ben Hammell, Tracey Hammell, Fancae Cook, and Jill Mitchell. Additionally, we have many other volunteers, but a special thank you to these regulars.
KARK’s “4 the Greater Good” telethon: It generated a much-needed $120,000 for the Arkansas Foodbank during the week of December 5. It was capped with a $36,000 donation from our friends at Kroger. We are grateful to the many KARK television viewers who called in to make this happen. We are also grateful to the many volunteers who staffed the phones as early as 5 am and as late at 10:30 pm, among them employees from Healthscope, Target, KARK, Tyson, Arvest Bank and volunteers from Remington College, Americorps, UAMS Nursing students, the Central Arkansas Roller Derby, United Way and Harvesters. And the morning crew and newscasters at KARK were really special in promoting our cause. Ain't that teriffic?!!!
Did you Know? According to the most recent USDA Household Food Insecurity Report, 28.6% of Arkansans live in danger of going hungry – 27% above the national average.