Around 70 Region 8 residents gather to fight hunger

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas held it's annual Agency Networking Conference at St. Bernard's Auditorium in Jonesboro.

There around seventy representatives from about thirty different organizations gathered together to network and share ideas.

Jeanne Johnson, with the Trumann Food Pantry, says this her first year to attend the conference and she's learned a lot.

"We're learning about organizations within Arkansas that are pulling together as coalitions together with the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas and other food banks throughout Arkansas that are pulling together to meet the needs of people in the communities. So, we're learning how to work together not only in Northeast Arkansas but also as a state throughout Arkansas."

Jeanne says they were also being taught how to write grants in order to receive additional money for categories such as general operating expenses or equipment that we need in order to serve the people in our community.

Christies Jordan, Executive Director for the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, says this meeting accomplishes several things.

"It's a way for us to wrap up Hunger Action Month, but it's also more importantly a way for us to get our agencies together so that we can provide them with different types of training and the opportunity for them to get together and share ideas."

Christie says this meeting is also important because they are able to provide necessary training to their partners, "This annual meeting is really important because we have contractual obligations with each of our agencies and to our donors. We need to provide food safety training to each of the partners we work with. And so, at our annual conference we usually talk about food safety and handling, and what they need to be doing to safely store and distribute that food to families in need."

It's also an excellent opportunity for them to share ideas.

Christie Jordan, "Different organizations distribute food in different ways and so it's always neat for them to talk about how they are doing things successfully in their own communities."

Jeanne says she's never worked in food distribution before and was stunned to discover how many people are actually in need.

"I was actually shocked because most people, when you're not involved with food distribution or anything that has to do with food insecurity, you're shocked to find how many people are there that have food need."

Jeanne says the goal of the Trumann Food Pantry is to provide limited emergency food for people who are in need of food in the community.

Jeanne says another shocking fact she's discovered is the number of people who are working, but still find themselves in a situation where they need help.

"We're finding there are a number of people that come each food pantry day that are working, but very limited hours and have families to feed and there's not enough money for it to stretch to put food on their table."

One of the things Christie says she and Food Bank personnel were excited about was getting to give away over one hundred thousand dollars in equipment grants to the agencies at the conference.

This means every organization that applied for additional help, equipment or other items walked away with something that is going to help them help others.

The Trumann Food Pantry opened on March 3rd of this year and already serves an average of more than three hundred families, averaging twenty pounds of food per family per visit.

As of September 3rd, they distributed 43, 000 pounds of food!

The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas serves five thousand, one hundred people per week in the twelve counties throughout Region 8.

For more information about the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, you can call 870-932-FOOD or you can log onto their website.

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