Jewels of Giving Gala provides 1.8 million meals through NWA Food Bank

by Nancy Peevy ([email protected]) 1,882 views 

Megan Crozier feels a certain calling, in her role as senior vice president, general merchandise manager of packaged goods at Wal-Mart, to keep food costs down.

Crozier shared her commitment in remarks to a sold out crowd of 750 people at the Jewels of Giving Gala, benefitting the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank, on Friday (Nov. 17) at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers. She was honorary chair of the event.

Crozier said her commitment comes, in part, from a video she watched of a crowded Walmart U.S. store that took place at 11:59 p.m. one night. There were people everywhere standing with shopping carts filled with food. She said that there were so many people so late at night, because it was one minute before “SNAP” (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) money was deposited into people’s accounts. She said that “SNAP” is a federally-funded program that provides nutritional assistance for groceries.

“They were waiting for the money to hit their account so they could buy food,” Crozier said.

But, what struck her even more was the number of children present.

“In every one of these shopping carts, there’s a little kid there and this little kid is crying, sobbing, reaching for his mom. He’s mad because it’s midnight and he’s not in his bed sleeping and he’s also hungry,” she said.

“Every time I watch this video, I’m thinking how my heart goes out to this child and you see the clock strike midnight and these people as they rush to check out of our stores so they can get home and they can put food in these hungry kids’ bellies,” Crozier said. “And every time I watch this video, I know I have a bigger purpose when I go to work every single day.”

Crozier said in light of that video and that calling, she works with suppliers to take costs out of the supply chain to make sure Wal-Mart has the lowest cost of goods possible. Crozier told the crowd that because there are families not even able to afford Wal-Mart, agencies like the NWA Food Bank are needed.

One out of seven residents of Northwest Arkansas, or more than 70,000, are food insecure, said Mike Williams, director of development for the Food Bank. In Northwest Arkansas, one out of every four children, or 29,570 kids, are food insecure. Arkansas also has the highest rate of senior hunger in the United States. According to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization, food insecurity is defined as “lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.”

(from left) Darryl and Mary Zettle, Megan and Ryan Crozier. Mary Zettle with General Mills and is on the NWA Food Bank board. Megan Crozier was honorary chair for the evening.

The NWA Food Bank was founded in 1988 as a non-profit organization to serve Benton, Washington, Madison and Carroll counties “by providing an affordable and credible food source to our partner agencies serving the hungry.”

Williams said the organization projects they will distribute more than 13 million pounds of food this year and partner with more than 150 agencies, including pantries, senior centers and after school programs, to do that. These partner agencies collect food from the food bank to distribute to those in need and serve more than 300 people on average each time they are open. Those served in the four-county area include residents of all ages, from families to school children to senior citizens.

The goal for the gala was to raise enough money for 1.8 million meals, Williams said. Every dollar raised will provide 11 meals. The presenting sponsor for the evening was Tyson Foods. General Mills was the diamond sponsor. Cargill and Sam’s Furniture were emerald sponsors.

During the gala guests enjoyed dinner, dancing, live and silent auctions. Live auction items included a Disney vacation for four, a hog roast for 40 to 50 people, a $10,000 furniture home makeover by Sam’s Furniture and an 11-week old Labradoodle dog.