Sep 21, 2023 - News

Rice donation to reach all of Arkansas

Brian Burton, CEO of the Arkansas Food Bank, on Wednesday thanks the rice industry for its donation. Screenshot from Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders' livestream.

The Arkansas Rice Federation will donate 240,000 pounds of milled rice to the the state's largest food bank.

  • The donation, equal to about 1.8 million servings, was announced Wednesday at the Arkansas Food Bank in Little Rock.

Driving the news: September is Hunger Action Month, National Rice Month and was proclaimed Arkansas Rice Month by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday.

  • The state produces roughly half of the 16 billion pounds of rice grown in the U.S. annually.
  • The grain is one of the top staples that Feeding America recommends for donations to food pantries, along with peanut butter, pasta and canned goods.

Why it matters: Feeding America estimates nearly 470,000 Arkansans — or 15% of the state's population — battle food insecurity.

  • About 135,000 of those are children.

Zoom in: Benton and Saline counties had the lowest levels of food insecurity during 2021 at 10.7% and 11.3%, respectively.

  • 13.4% of people living in Washington County struggled with hunger that year.

What they're saying: "Food banks have really been squeezed, so this incredible donation could not have come at a better time," Brian Burton, CEO of Arkansas Food Bank in Little Rock said at a news conference.

  • Inflation and lingering supply chain issues, along with slowed government commodities tied to pandemic relief, have made sourcing food more difficult, he said.
  • The donation will be distributed to all four Feeding America Food Banks in the state — including the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank — and will reach people in all 75 counties.

Of note: Tyson Foods said it would donate $2.5 million to support Feeding America this month.

How you can help: The Little Free Pantry movement, started by Jessica McClard of Fayetteville, maintains a national map of hyperlocal food pantries where anyone can leave shelf-stable staples.

  • The Northwest Arkansas Food Bank accepts volunteers for various parts of its operations — learn more and apply.
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