A Look Back
In the early 1980s, President Ronald Reagan's administration scaled back welfare provision, leading to a rapid rise in activity from grass roots hunger relief agencies. According to a comprehensive government survey completed in 2002, more than 90% of food banks were established in the US after 1981.
Arkansas joined the movement in 1984, when an ecumenical group known as the Arkansas Hunger Task Force decided to incorporate a food bank because local food pantries were too small to store enough food to keep up with the demand. The group chose to utilize a warehouse model, meaning that this food bank would acquire, store and distribute food to pantries rather than being a front-line resource that gives it out to people directly.
Banking on Success
In the early years, a revolving door of executive directors resulted in a weak organizational foundation, although distribution kept pace with demand. In 1999, the board hired Phyllis Haynes, an experienced nonprofit professional, to take over as CEO. What followed was a flurry of activity, innovation and growth, particularly in marketing, fundraising and program development. When Haynes retired in 2013, the Foodbank was a $6 million operation with a staff of more than 40 and a database of thousands of donors.
Home is Where the Food Is
The Arkansas Foodbank has had four homes in its 30-years:
After its incorporation, the Foodbank sets up its warehouse in an L-shaped building at the intersection of Asher Avenue and Mabelvale Pike, in southwest Little Rock. Although the area is ideal for interstate distribution, our rapid expansion quickly outgrows the space.
The second building is near 33rd Avenue on Brown Street, directly behind the Pulaski County Jail.
Ten years later, it’s time for another move. A former United Postal Service building on Distribution Drive fits the requirements, although it’s an older building and the uneven floors make racking pallets of food impossible.
The march towards a custom-built home for the Foodbank begins when the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation sponsors a study on hunger relief organizations in Arkansas. Foodbank board and staff members take advantage of the opportunity to seek capital campaign funding from the Foundation, and the goal of $14.5 million was achieved by 2009. Ground was broken in May 2010, nearly ten years after the study, and the building was dedicated in a public ceremony in May 2011.