Grant to help feed people in need, officials say

Grant to help feed people in need, officials say
(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A financial service firm puts money back into the community, making it possible for hundreds in Region 8 to eat better.

The Morgan Stanley Foundation awarded $25,000 to the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas on Wednesday.

The funds will be used to increase the food bank's ability to access, transport and store fresh produce and provide fruits and vegetables for local residents.

Specifically, the money will be used to benefit the people in both Cross and Jackson counties.

David Bettis, the branch manager of Morgan Stanley in Jonesboro, said he and his associates were thrilled to learn the food bank was being awarded money.

"Even though we're a global company," Bettis said. "Morgan Stanley has a foundation which contributes to local causes. We had an opportunity to mention the Northeast Arkansas Food Bank on an application. Then, we got the exciting surprise that the Morgan Stanley Foundation had awarded $25,000 to the food bank. We were really, really excited. There were only two awards given in the entire complex, so we were very happy."

Bettis said it was his own experience with those at risk of hunger that gave them the idea to apply for the money on behalf of the food bank.

"I'm involved with our church," Bettis said. "At the care center at First Baptist Church here in Jonesboro. And I know how many people come through there and I know what the needs are. So, that's where the idea first came from for the food bank."

Vicki Pillow, the director of development for the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, said a donation like this changes lives.

"This Morgan Stanley Foundation grant is huge," Pillow said. "Because we are now able to put two large walk-in coolers into two of our partner agencies in Cross and Jackson County. And that will enable them to distribute thousands of pounds of fresh produce to families struggling in those counties."

Joan Ball, the director of the Cherry Valley Food Pantry, said they're going to be able to do more for the people in their community.

"It means a great deal," Ball said. "Because now we can accept so much more. We have two refrigerators, but it's too small to put all this stuff in. So, we can only get a small amount when we come up here to pick it up because we don't want to get more than we can use. Now, we can have a lot more. Like this past week, we got apples. And they were fresh and so pretty. We got enough that we can give them out next week also. So, we have a place to put them because our cooler."

Jan Paschal, the president of Every Child is Ours in Tuckerman, said this will help hundreds of people in their communities.

"We are so grateful," Paschal said. "We feed so many people from seven towns and to have an opportunity to get produce from the food bank and be able to keep it for a minute so people can get it as they need it, is like a Godsend for us. To be able to have fresh fruit, fresh vegetables to give to those who need it the most."

"We would never be able to afford something like this," Ball said. "I mean, we work on a real tight budget. I'm sure all the pantries do. We'd never be able to afford something like this. And secondly, this summer we have been real fortunate to get a lot of produce from the food bank and one week we lost a bunch of tomatoes we just had to throw away. It was so bad. We just hated it so bad, but we didn't have any way to keep them. So, they just ruined on us. This is going to mean that's not going to happen to us again."

"The people we help choose between medicine and food," Paschal said. "And they are grateful. Anything we do. They were grateful when they learned we were getting a walk-in cooler. We were telling them, 'Northeast Arkansas Food Bank just got us a walk-in cooler.' They were all applauding and grateful because they understood what that meant."

Pillow said this donation will not only allow these communities more food but nutritious choices for families in need.

"Lots of families can't afford," Pillow said. "To provide fresh fruits and vegetables for their families on a consistent basis. So, this grant will allow them to have access to this fresh, nutritious produce more regularly."

"It's fantastic," Bettis said. "To be honest, I was surprised we won the award, but I'm very happy we did. I'm hoping it'll help a lot of people."

Ball said they feed around 100 families a week and that 75% of the children in their area are on free or reduced lunches at school.

This means they are at or below the poverty level.

Paschal said they feed around 600 families a month, with a large amount of their clients being senior citizens who are homebound.

Every Child is Ours serves residents in Tuckerman, Swifton, Grubbs, Campbell Station, Diaz, Jacksonport and Amagon.

The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas serves 12 counties in Northeast Arkansas.

They distribute 110,000 meals a week.

So, what's the solution?

Pillow said it's everyone standing up and taking action against hunger.

"Everybody can help," Pillow said. "We can provide four meals for every dollar that is donated to us. So, everybody that gives one dollar provides four meals to someone who's struggling. This can be your neighbor. There's all kinds of people who are food insecure and you just don't know it. People don't know how they're going to feed their families that night. You probably know somebody and you are just not aware that they are struggling."

"We're asking people to help us," Paschal said. "Help us keep feeding these people. Help feed the people in your area. Because the people who need food are your people. They're not somewhere else, they're yours. Reach out and make sure they have the food they need. Offer to volunteer. And above all, let's make sure we keep the Northeast Arkansas Food Bank doing what it's doing."

To learn more about the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas and how you can help, click here.

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