The Arkansas Food Bank is reporting that it distributed a record amount of food in 2013. The Food Bank’s warehouse tallied 20,915,960 pounds of food last year, about 4.5 millions pounds above 2012’s amount. Spokesman Tyler Lindsey said a group effort by all the Food Bank’s staff members led to a successful year in distributing products.
“We have our development team that raises the funds. We have our finance team that really allows us to do what we do on a daily basis. And we have our program services team—they’re the ones that actually have the interaction on a day-to-day basis with our 300 member agencies...So they’re the ones travelling all across 33 counties, meeting with [those agencies], setting up their food pantries,” he said.
Lindsey also praised the warehouse operations team.
“They’re the ones acquiring the food and they’re the ones that are packing and shipping all our orders out to agencies on a day to day basis. We haven’t really grown in the warehouse in terms of staff members...Each year we grow in terms of pounds. They’re having to do more and more work and they really put in a lot of effort [in 2013],” he said.
Individual and corporate donations contributed to the total amount of food, including a retail pickup program where the Food Bank receives leftover items from grocery stores. Lindsey said his organization was also fortunate to find good deals on bulk items and received produce donations from Arkansas farmers that amounted to over 1.5 million pounds—the first time that has ever happened. He said the Food Bank’s member agencies regularly serve about 23,000 families weekly and the amount of food distributed in 2013 equated to about 17,429,00 meals.
Lindsey said the October federal government shutdown caused the Food Bank some worry because the non-profit receives a portion of its assistance from the US Department of Agriculture.
Despite the big distribution increase, Arkansas still ranks 2nd in the nation in food insecurity among its residents. In addition, a recent decrease in federal funding for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP (better known as food stamps) gave rise to increased demand for food assistance among low-income Arkansans.