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A Letter From Kent – Feb ’20

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Please take time to look at all the photos in this newsletter of our groundbreaking celebration which took place on June 30. I estimated that between 150 and 200 supporters were able to join us. In the event that you were not one of those, I would like to share with you an edited version of my remarks. I have taken out the introductions of our other speakers, Patrick Shanks, Chairman of the Board, Casey Marsh, Vice President of Development for Feeding America and Chris Moore, Mayor of Lowell

“Good Morning. I’m Kent Eikenberry, the president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank and I am excited to welcome each of you and to thank you for joining us on this significant milestone for the Food Bank.

While our actual construction will not begin for a couple of months, I want to explain why we chose today for our Ceremonial groundbreaking. In a word, June. June Self was our founding president and the Food Bank was incorporated in June, 1988, so today, June 30 is very appropriate.

Several years ago, Diana and I had the opportunity to have dinner with a friend. During the course of dinner, he asked how old I was. I replied that I was 51. He said it was time for me to be rich. We chuckled and I asked what he had in mind.

Now, 16 years later, I think back on that evening and look around at the people here supporting our mission, all I can say is JB, it may not be the same kind of rich as we were thinking that night, but I’m richer than we ever imagined I would be. Johnelle, Jane, Bryan: Thank you so very much for making that conversation become reality through the donation of the land we are standing on.

Hardly a day goes by without someone asking me, are there really people in Northwest Arkansas that don’t have enough to eat. Sadly, food insecurity is a reality here just as it is everywhere else. Right now, it is estimated that over 70,000 of our friends and neighbors don’t know where their next meal is coming from. That equates to approximately ONE in SEVEN. Even more unfortunate, is the number of food insecure children. Between ONE in FOUR and ONE in FIVE children under the age of 18 go to bed hungry. That is unacceptable.

We all know the past couple of years have been rough on us all. But the pandemic taught us many things, not the least of which is that we have inadequate space to meet today’s needs let alone tomorrows. The Northwest Arkansas Council estimates that in just 20 short years, the population of northwest Arkansas will exceed 1 Million people. Even with our best efforts, this increase in population will result in an increase in food insecure individuals. That’s why today I am so pleased and excited to announce the public phase of the Food for Today/ Hope for Tomorrow capital campaign—a $25 Million initiative to increase our capacity to better serve our neighbors in need.

A large portion of that campaign will be used to establish a new campus right here where we stand. A new 82,000 square foot facility will be the hub of all the Food Bank operations. This new facility will help us significantly increase dry and cold storage capacity, it will significantly increase our volunteer capacity, and will provide space for educational programs. Included in it will be technological advances as well as a USDA certified clean repack room where bulk protein can be put into usable size packages. But this new building is just a tool in the fight against hunger. There is much more to it. That’s why as a part of the campaign, several million dollars are earmarked to increase and improve our programming.

Additional dollars will be invested into our partner agencies in order to help them expand their capacity to serve. Our strategic plan calls for us to provide reasonable access to nutritious food for every food insecure individual in our four-county service area by the year 2025. That means our annual distribution will grow to over 14 million meals by 2025 and over 20 million by the year 2045 just to keep up with the population growth.

As of today, our plans are no longer Northwest Arkansas’ worst kept secret. We have been planning this project for several years and have been raising money towards our $25 million goal for the past year. Today, I am proud to announce that nearly 80 percent of that money has already been raised. I’m also excited to announce that included in that 80 percent is a $3 million -dollar matching grant from the Alice L. Walton Foundation which will go a long way to helping get us over the top.

I encourage you to take a moment and look at the donor board listing those who have contributed so far. If you are one of those donors, please accept my deepest appreciation and my personal commitment that we will be good stewards of your investment. We could not do what we do without your support.

As we wrap up our ceremony this morning, I would like to once again thank each of you for being here today. Thank you for working with us in our fight against hunger. Thank you for believing in our mission that one hungry person is one too many. Thank you for your efforts to make northwest Arkansas a better place to live. Thank you for helping us catch our dreams. I hope you will all come back when we open our doors in late 2023 or early 2024 and help us celebrate YOUR Northwest Arkansas Food Bank. Because of you, someone will eat today….and tomorrow.

We’re ready to officially break ground. The theme of today has been past, present and future. So please allow me to introduce representing the past: Jeff Necessary, the founding chair of the board and Tracy Bowman, June Self’s son. Representing the present are Patrick Shanks, our current board chair and Dan Schroder our longest tenured staff member at 20 years. Representing the future are Claire Schmill and Alex Cardarelli, both young people who have been supporters of the Food Bank in their short lives.”

The ceremonial groundbreaking was a day of excitement for all of Northwest Arkansas. It was a step in a process that has been going on for several years. But it is not the climax. In fact, even the day we move into the new facility will not be the pinnacle of our journey. Our journey cannot be fully celebrated until the day all food insecure neighbors have the food they need. That celebration can only come with your help.

Thank you for all your past support and for making us better and thank you for your help in making us better tomorrow.

Because of you someone will eat today.

K



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