Photo: (from left) Shirley Clark, Food Bank of North Central Arkansas program director, and George Truell, Mountain Home Lions Club president.
The Food Bank of North Central Arkansas kicked off its Produce and Healthy Foods Initiative for 2019 with a $2,000 contribution from the Mountain Home Lions Club. The donation comes through the Lions Club's January focus on hunger and has been matched dollar-for-dollar by the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance for the purchase of fresh produce to be distributed in the food bank's nine-county service area. The funds have been used to purchase 40,000 pounds of fresh apples, potatoes, onions and carrots distributed during January and February.
The initiative is a collaborative effort among the food bank, AmeriCorps, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' Office of Community Health and Research, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas and the Governor's Office. The initiative's focus includes increasing access to fresh produce and healthy foods, as well as the creation of local and statewide nutrition plans to assist food banks and their partners in resourcing, warehousing and distributing healthier foods. Additionally, the initiative makes possible the creation of local hunger gardens in the food bank's service area and across the state.
The Lions Club donation has allowed the food bank to access the first of over $43,000 in matching funds. The January shipment of fresh produce is slated to be the first of seven semi-loads, about 280,000 pounds, of fresh produce to be distributed this year. In total, the food bank expects to distribute over 800,000 pounds of produce over a four-year period. The matching dollars have been made possible through funds made available to the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance by the Governor's Office and undergirds the governor's focus on the Healthy, Active Arkansas Initiative.
In addition to the increased amount of fresh produce provided through the initiative, the food bank is working with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, UAMS and the other Feeding America Food Banks across the state to develop a nutrition plan. During 2018, a survey of hunger relief organizations across the state showed an increasing need for fresh produce and healthy food options, including foods with less sodium, fat and sugar, as well as foods higher in protein and fiber.
The third element of the initiative includes up to three hunger gardens to be developed in Baxter County for growing foods locally to be distributed through the food bank's network. Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and food bank representatives met with local partners during January to begin the process of identifying locations for the gardens and ideal foods to be grown in the gardens during 2019.
Persons interested in learning more about the food bank's Produce and Healthy Foods Initiative or who are interested in donating or volunteering may contact the food bank at 870-499-7565.
The Food Bank of North Central Arkansas, founded in 1982, is a private, non-profit 510(c)3 charitable food relief organization. FBNCA distributes approximately three million pounds of food and other grocery products annually to independent community food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, back pack programs, summer and after school meal programs, and other special programs, touching the lives of an estimated 38,000 individuals annually throughout its nine-county service area.
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