AT&T Arkansas officials, along with Gov. Asa Hutchinson, unveiled a statewide initiative on Monday (June 24) at the State Capitol to move Arkansas off the list of states with the highest incidence of so-called “food insecurity.”
Noting that Arkansas ranked just ahead of Mississippi in a national ranking by Feeding America on food insecurity, AT&T Arkansas State President Ronnie Dedman announced a $100,000 gift from the telecom and wireless giant to the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance (AHRA) during a ceremony at the State Capitol.
Under the new statewide campaign called “Believe Arkansas,” Dedman said AT&T will work with AHRA in a statewide collaborative effort to combat hunger and food insecurity in the state.
“It should be no surprise to anyone why we are here today,” said Dedman, who was named AT&T Arkansas president a year ago. “I am going to call food insecurity what it is – it’s hunger. And we are second from the worse.”
Gov. Hutchinson, who recently returned to Arkansas from a weeklong trade mission in Europe, told the crowd of about 75 people gathered at Capitol event that eliminating food insecurity was important to improving all areas of Arkansas life, from children in school to homeless veterans and working families. He called fighting hunger “among the great challenges of Arkansans for generations.”
“This is a serious issue for our state. Think about what we want to accomplish, whether it is improving the reading of children in school – they can’t concentrate on reading if they are hungry,” said Hutchinson. “It is the fundamental, ‘number one’ need that we have.”
Former AT&T Arkansas President Eddie Drilling and company spokesman Dale Ingram said the Believe Arkansas initiative is an extension of larger, companywide initiative designed to create positive change in local communities across the U.S. where AT&T operates. For example, AT&T launched the “Believe Chicago” program in September that looks to hire and improve lives of 19 neighborhoods in the U.S. Midwest largest city affected by gun violence and high unemployment.
Drilling, who is now a senior vice president at AT&T’s corporate office in Dallas, said the Arkansas program is among the many such initiatives mobile, broadband and entertainment conglomerate is launching nationwide.
AHRA Executive Director Kathy Webb also spoke in support of the Arkansas hunger initiative. She said her alliance will work with other food banks, volunteers and other community organizations to identify strategies and specific programs that help in Arkansas’ fight against hunger.
The Believe Arkansas initiative includes a commitment of at least $100,000 to support the initiative in 2019. Among those gifts so far is $50,000 to the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance from the AT&T Foundation, and $20,000 from AT&T to the Alliance designated to assist food pantries during flood disaster recovery.
Also, AT&T in Central Arkansas is offering scores of collection points in its stores – plus a $10,000 contribution, half from AT&T and half from Telecom Pioneers, an AT&T-supported volunteer organization – to support the annual THV11 Summer Cereal Drive.
Later this year, AT&T and Cricket Wireless stores statewide – more than 100 locations – will serve as food collection points to provide “food patrol packs” for police and first responders to carry in their vehicles and distribute to needy families in the course of their work.