Our next “Face of Hunger Relief” is Arkansas Foodbank Board Member and Regional President of Performance Food Group (PFG) Joe Copeland. Performance Food Group has played a huge role in alleviating hunger all over the country and especially here in Arkansas. This week, Mr. Copeland discussed his involvement with the Foodbank over the years and why he decided to become a face for hunger relief.
When and how did you become involved with the Arkansas Foodbank?
In 2006, Performance Foodservice was helping supply cereal for the THV11 Summer Cereal Drive. I was asked to come to the Arkansas Foodbank to do an interview. While there I met Phyllis Haynes, the Executive Director at the time. As I was leaving I asked Phyllis “Please let me know if you need anything else.” Phyllis responded “Since you asked…” I have been a board member since.
Why is helping the hungry an important issue for you?
I started out working in restaurants and have spent the last 35 years in foodservice distribution. The food industry has been very good for me and my family. It just made sense to give back to the community through food. Lynn, my wife, and I both feel very strongly that it doesn’t make sense to us that a country that produces so much food can have citizens who are food insecure. As Bill Hybel states in his book Holy Discontent, Lynn and I could no longer stay on the sidelines. We had to get involved.
You have been a part of the board for years and even served as Board President….personally, what has it been like for you to see the organization grow into the cornerstone of hunger relief that it is today?
I would have to say it has been bittersweet. It has been awesome to see all that the Arkansas Foodbank has accomplished and how much we have grown, how many more pounds we distribute and how many more meals we have been able to provide. It was amazing the way the community responded during a very tough economic time to our capital campaign making our new facility possible. It has been wonderful to see the progress we’ve made in underserved counties and the innovative new programs we’ve developed to address childhood food insecurity. We are developing new innovative approaches to address senior food insecurity. The bittersweet part is that as fast as we grow, as innovative as we have been, it seems the need also continues to grow at a prolific rate.
I remember James Staats mentioning last year during the Cereal Drive just how much PFG does…. not only for the Foodbank but for the community in general. Being in the food industry, is hunger relief something PFG has always been a part of?
In 2005, Performance Food Group (PFG), our parent company, announced a national partnership with Feeding America (then America’s Second Harvest). As part of our commitment, PFG has assisted Feeding America and local food banks by donating products, making financial contributions to support programs and establishing a volunteer program to help people in need. Getting involved in the issue of hunger makes sense for us. Since our core business is food service distribution, we’re in an ideal position to help address this growing need.
You have played a big role in hunger relief in our state...Are there any experiences that stand out that make you feel proud of the work you have done?
There are several things. I am very proud of our associates at Performance Foodservice over how they have responded in support of our Community Outreach programs. The fundraisers they conduct for the cereal drive, their support of Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance’s gleaning program picking watermelons, their support of Empty Bowls and preparing and serving a dinner in support of the LRCC, a local homeless shelter, just to name a few. I am also very proud to see the awesome and innovative work we are accomplishing in reducing childhood hunger in our state. We truly have a chance to virtually eliminate childhood food insecurity in Arkansas in the next couple of years. Everyone involved, and there are thousands, should be very proud of making that a reality!!