By KD REEP | Photography by SARAH ODEN
Kathy Webb | Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance
Kathy Webb has a heart for service. As an elected official and through her unwavering commitment eliminating food insecurity in Arkansas, she has dedicated her time and talent to the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance for more than a decade. “I’ve been very interested in public policy and hunger issues for a long time – more than 30 years. I was immediately drawn to the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance because of the way it approaches hunger.”
That was 2005, and after joining the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance Board of Directors, she worked with her colleagues to form the legislative hunger caucus. She notes it was one of the first in the country. “We also organized the first Serving Up Solutions fundraiser, which has become our signature event.” More than 50 legislators volunteer as servers for the event; proceeds of $225,000 from the event last summer support the organization’s mission fulfillment work.
Kathy’s experience as a legislator with the Arkansas House of Representatives and vice mayor for the City of Little Rock brought food insecurity into finite focus for her – both personally and professionally. As an ardent advocate for hungry Arkansans, she worked closely with the alliance to create meaningful policies to address this crisis. When she became CEO of Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, it seemed almost inevitable. “I heard the original executive director speak at the Wesley Foundation at UA Little Rock, and I immediately became a volunteer,” she reflects. “I eventually joined the board of directors and when the executive director told me she was leaving, I told her, ‘I want your job.’ I have been here since 2012.”
Her devotion to the Natural State is unwavering. Kathy served three terms in the Arkansas General Assembly as a state representative from 2007 to 2012. Today, she represents Ward 3 on the Little Rock Board of Directors and the vice mayor of Little Rock. She is committed to building a brighter future for the Capital City and believes removing the obstacles of food insecurity is a critical component. “First is to put ourselves out of a job by ensuring every Arkansan has access to enough food to be free from hunger,” she elaborates. “We must make the right political choices to expand programs like SNAP. Next, we have to acknowledge the number of college students who are hungry in our state.” She notes this barrier to learning, reduced ability to focus and retain knowledge, is complicated by the stigma of poverty. “Finally, we must address the food deserts in Arkansas so people who don’t have access to vehicles can walk to a place nearby and get nutritious food they can afford.”
Kathy will retire as CEO of Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance in January, but this advocacy remains a top priority. Her optimism is infectious as she continues to improve the lives of fellow Arkansans. “The work is what is important. Look for something you are passionate about, learn more about it and do what you can. I hope this rekindles a belief in the common good because a life of service has certainly made my life richer.”