Authored by Shelby Grebbin
An influx of food donations looked like an answer to prayer for a regional food bank at the start of the pandemic – except for the fact that it didn’t have enough trucks, drivers, and refrigerator units to safely store and deliver them.
When restaurants shuttered their doors during the coronavirus pandemic, the Arkansas Food Bank received over 2 million extra pounds of food from restaurant suppliers and other donors who suddenly had supplies to share. The generous donations arrived right on time, because communities across the state were struggling to keep food on the table.
The logistics challenge? Finding a way to keep these much-needed, often perishable donations cool – and figuring out how to get them safety distributed to a record number of families.
“Thousands of Arkansans are only a paycheck away from experiencing hunger. The pandemic only intensified the challenges these people were already facing,” said Rhonda Sanders, CEO of Arkansas Food Bank in a press release. “With each new year, we set new goals and plan for how we can reach more people, but March of 2020 quickly revealed that we would be helping people who had never needed the food bank before – people we didn’t expect to serve.”
Enter ALAN and in-kind donor Core-Mark International, which agreed to lend the food bank several of its drivers, trucks and temperature-controlled trailers in order to make use of the huge restaurant-related food donation.
It was no small commitment: During the first two delivery runs alone, Core-Mark hauled 11,069 pounds of food to Choctaw Food Bank in Van Buren County and 8,188 pounds to Food Bank of the Delta in Phillips County, two counties with some of the highest rates of food insecurity in the state.
Many more donated transits followed, as Core-Mark leveraged its logistics capabilities and equipment to help the food bank meet the increased need for distribution throughout the year, regularly transporting food donations from the food bank’s warehouse in Little Rock to food pantries, soup kitchens, churches and other centers in a 33-county service area.
“In good times and bad, Core-Mark remains committed to our core values including our focus on ‘family,’ and we care for and continually strive to support the well-being of the communities we serve,” said Brian Johnston, Senior Director of Transportation of Core-Mark in a press release. “We are proud to be able to assist the life-enhancing work of Arkansas Food Bank and appreciate the efforts of ALAN in helping match our capabilities with this important need.”
By the end of the year, the non-profit had distributed a total of 40.4 million pounds of food across central and southern Arkansas (a 37% increase from the previous year) – including numerous shipments that Core-Mark played a vital role in storing and delivering.
“Climate-controlled units and transportation services are always hugely valuable commodities, but especially at times like these when so many additional families need food,” said ALAN’s Kathy Fulton. “We were so pleased when Core-Mark agreed to assist with this project, and are grateful for their partnership and commitment to serving communities in need.”