By the Numbers: 16.3 Million Pounds

By Ray White, Communications Director

The Arkansas Foodbank,  in addition to its humanitarian mission of helping hungry people, is also a business. A non-profit business, but business nonetheless, that cares about fiscal responsibility, growth, accounting, and keeping a sharp eye on the bottom line. 

This past year the Foodbank distributed 16,344,860 pounds, up 1,803,436 pounds, a 12% increase over 2011.  

That was a strong improvement over the previous year, but still demand outstripped our partner agencies’ ability to supply it. Many of our food pantry partners reported running out of food on distribution days. 

More of the food we distributed was healthy produce, 1,781,156 pounds in 2012, up 717,052 pounds from a year before, or a 67% increase.  This was due to extra produce received through Feeding America’s Choice program, and produce from the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance’s gleaning program, with volunteers picking over fields after the farmer’s mechanical harvesters have done their work. Gleaning topped 1 million pounds for the first time last year.

Another bright spot was the Foodbank’s retail pickup program, in which grocery stores pass on to the Foodbank products they cannot retail. The amount of product received from Retail Pickup for the year was 5,945,184 pounds, up 1,094,748 pounds, or a 23% increase over the previous year. The three retailers that were up the most were Kroger, up 76%, Walmart, up 22%, and Target, up 24%.

Food drives for the year produced 305,520 pounds, up 3,268 for the year and a 1.08% increase over 2011.

One important source of food for food banks are donations of semi-trailer loads of food from food processors and manufacturers. The Foodbank orders from a national online information network that lists loads of available canned goods and other products that are being donated because of overproduction or products nearing their “use by” dates.

Food banks started because pantries were being offered truckloads of  food they were unable to accept because of a lack of storage space. A food bank warehouse could take those loads and split them up between various pantries. Today the Arkansas Foodbank uses such economies of scale to provide food to 300 local agencies, as well as the five other Feeding America food banks in Arkansas.

So our Operations Department checks the database and arranges transportation to the Foodbank for loads they see listed online. Your donor dollars help pay to ship that food to the Foodbank so we can distribute it to food pantries and other hunger relief agencies. 

But the amount of goods we received from manufacturers and food processors was down last year—2,823,277 pounds, 451,917 pounds less than in 2011, a 13.79% decrease. 

That’s in line with the trend we have seen since the beginning of the recession as businesses became focused on avoiding overproduction and waste. Understandable, but food banks all over the country have scrambled to make up those missing pounds.

Also since the downturn we’ve had to purchase more products. In 2012 we purchased 1,547,006 pounds, up 36,541 pounds or 2.36% over 2011.

In addition to pounds, the Foodbank had other accomplishments.

  • Last year we began a great partnership with the Diesel Driving Academy to deliver loads to our Warren branch warehouse. Driver trainees get a “live load” experience and each trip saves the Foodbank several hundred dollars. DDA made 36 deliveries for us, which saved us $16,400 in transportation costs.
  • A number we’re proud of is 980—that’s the score the Foodbank facility recevied from AIB, the most respected food warehouse certification agency. That score earned the Foodbank a Superior rating and made us the highest-scoring of Feeding America’s 200 food banks. Credit goes to T.J. Romine, head of operations, and Eric Shelby, facilities manager, for meeting the AIB’s high standards. 
  • In May the Foodbank opened a new branch warehouse in Caddo Valley near Arkadelphia and began working with area food pantries to increase area food distribution. Having the branch warehouses saves the pantries time and transportation costs since they no longer have to drive to Little Rock to pick up food.
  • Another new boon to the Foodbank happened when employees at the L’Oreal manufacturing plant in North Little Rock suggested that the company donate empty boxes created during their shipping operations to the Foodbank. The Foodbank now picks up donated boxes from L’Oreal twice a month as part of L’Oreal’s “Go Green” program.
  • The Foodbank relies on volunteers to help inspect, sort and box food for delivery to the pantries and this year was no exception. A total of 3,780 individuals contributed 17,385 hours of work, while 1813 groups contributed 8,734 hours. 
  • As usual, the Foodbank owes Tom Brannon and KTHV-11, where he is “Morning Show” co-host, a huge debt of gratitude for the annual Today’s THV Summer Cereal Drive, which collected 212,000 boxes of cereal that we distributed to the food pantries.
  • And KARK-4, with a week-long telethon for the Foodbank in December, raised more than $50,000, thanks to Jessica Dean, Bob Clausen, Mallory Hardin, Matt Mosler, Wendy Suares, Greg Dee and all the KARK production crew. More than 80 volunteers staffed the phones.

Add it all together and that’s how the Foodbank helps feed so many hungry Arkansans.

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