It’s National Food Bank Day, but at Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, we believe it should be every day because no one should go to bed hungry.
In Arkansas, 1 in 5 people don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and 25% of children face hunger in our state.
To help curb these numbers, Arkansas Blue Cross committed in 2018 to pack 700,000 meals to help fight food insecurity in Arkansas as part of its 70th-anniversary celebration.
That year, we partnered with The Pack Shack, a nonprofit organization focused on food insecurity, to hold fun community rallies throughout Arkansas. Scores of volunteers joined us and packed nutritious meals for local food pantries.
We beat our goal that year, packing more than 1 million meals, then added hundreds of thousands more meals to the total in 2019, and in 2020 exceeded the 2 million meals mark.
Helping our neighbors in need with healthy meals
When the pandemic hit this spring, we knew the need for healthy food would increase exponentially. Our Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas gave The Pack Shack a grant to mobilize small groups of volunteers at its Northwest Arkansas warehouse, masked and socially distanced, to pack more than 140,000 meals on behalf of Arkansas Blue Cross. To date, our total is 2,145,310 meals, thanks to funding and hands-on packing.
“The Blue & You Foundation has a rich history of commitment to fighting hunger and we understand the important role of the local food banks,” said Rebecca Pittillo, associate executive director of the Blue & You Foundation.
“Over the past four and a half years, we’ve had the privilege of working with Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield across the state of Arkansas,” said Bret Raymond, co-founder and CEO of The Pack Shack. “During this time, over 8,700 people have participated in Feed the Funnel parties with Blue Cross to pack a total of 2,145,310 delicious, healthy meals for our neighbors in need. We’re deeply grateful for Blue Cross’ commitment to the health and well-being of all Arkansans and are proud to have you all as friends.”
Helping your local food bank is more important than ever
In 1967, St. Mary’s Food Bank founded National Food Bank Day to recognize the outstanding contributions of food banks around the country and to commemorate the establishment of St. Mary’s Food Bank by its founder John van Hengel.
Food banks are even more critical now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have even closed. If you have a food bank in your town, consider making a donation to observe National Food Bank Day.
“Their presence in communities across the state has been especially important during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Pittillo. “Individuals who have never before needed assistance, have been making regular visits to their local food bank. The Blue & You Foundation recognized this need and in April awarded $500,000 to the major food hubs and to the United Ways across the state to help with food insecurity and to make sure those local food banks had the resources they needed to provide for their growing customer base.”