Fort Smith-based OK Foods is donating 500,000 pounds of chicken to the River Valley Regional Food Bank. It’s a donation valued at almost $1.5 million, and is estimated to provide up to 1.6 million servings to food insecure families in eight counties.
The donation will be spread out over five years and was announced Thursday (Sept. 8) as part of Hunger Action Day, an initiative of Feeding America, a nationwide network of 200 food banks. Feeding America estimated the donation value at $1.4 million, with the 500,000 pounds to provide between 1.3 million and 1.6 million servings.
“This means that each year, roughly 85,000 healthy family ‘sit-down together’ meals can be created with the mere addition of a fresh salad or a couple of fruit or vegetable servings,” noted a statement from the River Valley Regional Food Bank (RVRFB).
The RVRFB operates in eight counties – Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Polk, Scott, Sebastian and Yell – through 189 member agencies. Food bank officials say there are a little more than 300,000 people in the service area, with more than 53,000 classified as food insecure, and 25,000 of that group being children. Sebastian County has a child food insecurity rate of 30%, with an estimated 6,700 food insecure children in Fort Smith.
“Shame on me, but I was just shocked at the food insecurity rate in our own backyard,” Trent Goins, president and CEO of OK Foods, told Talk Business & Politics. “So I started thinking, ‘How could we help?’”
Goins said he and others with OK Foods met with RVRFB Director Ted Clemons and food bank Director of Marketing and Development Ken Kupchick several months ago to see how they could best meet the needs. The discussions resulted in the strategy to donate 500,000 pounds over five years.
“I just really felt like as one of the largest employers in town, we had that responsibility,” Goins said, adding that parent company Bachoco is supportive of what is the largest donation ever made by OK Foods. “I hope that other corporate leaders in the community will step up. It’s (food insecurity) a solvable problem if we will all just take action.”
OK Foods employs more than 3,000 in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. The RVRFB donation is the first step in OK Foods’ “strategic sustained giving plan to Feeding America food banks in areas surrounding its headquarters in Fort Smith, Arkansas,” noted the press release.
“This commitment from OK Foods will help provide thousands of meals for our hungriest neighbors,” Clemons said in the RVRFB statement. “By guaranteeing high-quality protein over the next five years, OK Foods’ donation is adding great stability to our operations.”
Chicken has become a larger part of the American diet. The average annual per capita consumption of chicken is estimated to be 92.1 pounds in 2016, according to the National Chicken Council. The 2016 consumption would be 229% more than the 28 pounds in 1960, the first year the average was calculated.