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story.lead_photo.caption Gov. Mike Beebe holds a proclamation marking the 30th anniversary of the Arkansas Foodbank during a news conference at its Little Rock headquarters Friday. - Photo by Gavin Lesnick

The Arkansas Foodbank on Friday marked its 30th anniversary with a proclamation from Gov. Mike Beebe and a promise to continue its fight against hunger.

At a news conference at the Foodbank's Little Rock warehouse and headquarters, supporters recalled the early days of the Foodbank after its 1984 incorporation and how it has worked over the years to bring food — including much that would otherwise go to waste without a place to store it — to the people who need it most.

"I hope we don't have a 60th anniversary," Chief Executive Officer Rhonda Sanders said. "Because I truly feel like we can figure out a way to get all this food that we have out to the people who need it. And that the Arkansas Foodbank won't be necessary."

But that day hasn't arrived yet.

The Foodbank, the largest of its kind in Arkansas, in 2013 distributed nearly 21 million pounds of food to food pantries across the state, surpassing its goal of 18 million pounds. And the facility has plans to, in 2016 distribute 26 million pounds.

"We feel like that amount of food is needed, and we feel like that amount of food is available and that we can do that," Sanders said.

Added Beebe on the enormous goal: "It's ambitious. It's bold. And it's necessary."

The Foodbank plans to mark the 30th anniversary all year with a series of events and promotions, including recognizing 30 people who have supported the nonprofit's work in a "Faces of Hunger" series.

The governor, who credited his wife, first lady Ginger Beebe, with helping make hunger-relief efforts a priority of his administration, said the Foodbank has been part of a successful but ongoing push to diminish food-insecurity rates across the state.

"Kids can't learn without food," he said. "Parents can't work without food. Our elderly or sick can't get better without food. This place, these people are what makes all of this work."

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