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Feeding Hungry Arkansans

By Kim Meyer Webb | Photography by Sarah Oden | Shot on location at Dunbar Community Garden

Arkansas Foodbank works 365 days to feed our neighbors in need, yet Arkansas remains one of the hungriest states in the nation. During the global pandemic, more Arkansans are experiencing food insecurity and depend on the organization for critical support. Karla and Will Montgomery will welcome friends and patrons to Harvest Night for an evening of festivities that supports this continued mission fulfillment work as well as recognizes the advent of Hunger Action Month.

   For nearly two decades, Will has served in a variety of civic leadership roles at the Arkansas Foodbank. He was initially introduced to the organization through his work at Regions Bank, but his heart for service developed as a young man. “When I was 12 years old, I volunteered for the Salvation Army and served food to those staying at the facility. It was a humbling experience.” Karla jokes, “I like to say I married into the Foodbank.” They were newlyweds and Will had just joined Harvesters, the young professionals auxiliary. The couple, along with their two sons, remain ardent ambassadors. “Our family tries to focus on giving to organizations that emphasize the necessities of life like food, clothing and shelter,” Karla explains. “Because of COVID-19, this year brings increased challenges as the need for the Foodbank services also increased dramatically.” Will adds, “There are more Arkansans who don’t have jobs and are experiencing a shortage in their daily needs; some must choose medicine before food – the Foodbank makes meals available to these Arkansans.”

   With more than 420 local partnerships – including churches, soup kitchens, shelters and children’s feeding programs – a strategic distribution network provides food and resources from the Arkansas Foodbank 75,000-square-foot headquarters to communities across the state. Arkansas Foodbank Donor Engagement Director Emily Gassman explains, “We are able to help thousands of hungry Arkansas children, families and seniors. We’re also uniquely prepared to respond to any crisis. We have distributed over 8 million meals during our response to COVID-19 and will continue to meet the increased need for months to come.” Emily notes that programs like the fresh produce initiative increase access to healthy, nutritious food options that improve wellness and vitality of clients. “Arkansas Foodbank distributes millions of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to our partners in our 33 county service area each year. By providing families and children with better food it helps lead to stronger, healthier communities.”

   Harvest Night is a family-friendly festival hosted by the Arkansas Foodbank that generates critical funding for the organization’s feeding programs. “This year’s event may look a little different, but it will offer new and innovative ways to engage a community of support,” Emily elaborates. “We’ve seen the need for food in our service area skyrocket. As businesses and schools closed and unemployment increased, we were able to ensure Arkansans had access to the most basic of needs – food. The need is still there and we must continue feeding our hungry neighbors.”

Inviting Arkansas

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