5 tons of food given away during North Little Rock event

Partnership with King Commission helps hundreds of residents in NLR region

Antoine Ingram, center left, helps other volunteers load food into vehicles during the Arkansas Martin Luther King Jr. Commission Pre-Fourth of July Food Giveaway event at the St. Luke Baptist Church in North Little Rock on Monday, July 3, 2023. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)

A total of 10,000 pounds of food was given away to hundreds of residents in and around the North Little Rock area on Monday.

The massive amount of donations came from the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission's partnership with the Arkansas Food Bank and Tyson Foods. Others who participated were the Arkansas Food Depot, the Pettus Foundation, Anderson Taekwondo, the Arkansas Department of Corrections and St. Luke Baptist Church, where the event was held.

Cars started lining up at 7 a.m. to beat the line that stretched down the Jacksonville Highway, backing up regular traffic.

The crowds were similar to another food giveaway the King Commission hosted in Jacksonville in honor of the Juneteenth holiday. At this event, 15,000 pounds of food were distributed to the community in a matter of a few hours.

Dushun Scarbrough, executive director of the King Commission, said they ran out of food quickly, so the commission wanted to partner with local organizations again for another opportunity for those in need to get food.

"To see folks come out from all over, particularly after the storms, the recent storms, not just March, but the power outage -- so many people have lost so many pounds of food throughout the area," Scarbrough said.

"We were so blessed to be in partnership with St. Luke Baptist Church, with the Food Bank and with Tyson in order to make this endeavor go smoothly, so it's truly a blessing we're able to feed thousands of individuals."

The Arkansas Food Bank brought a truck with an additional 2,000 pounds of food to distribute along with the Tyson truck's 10,000-pound contribution, he said.

Scarbrough has been the executive director of the King Commission for the past 15 years and said he follows King's vision by hosting what he described as the largest day of service in the nation and leading the most active commission in the nation.

"It's just truly a blessing to be able to continue to make history and to make people happy, just folks, to leave with a smile on their face and know that they're not going to be hungry," he said.

Ashley King, the new community and agency services director for the Arkansas Food Bank, said she has always worked in public health and community work.

"Helping out other people, just serving others -- I've been a servant pretty much all my life," she said. "It just flows with working with the Arkansas Food Bank. It's just something that I'll continue on forever, and helping our community is important to me."

King said most people are just excited to get supplements to their main food supply.

"It warms our hearts to know that we are helping because we all know the cost of groceries, the cost of food has increased," she added. "So if we can just provide the supplement for families, for kids across central Arkansas, that's what we're going to do."

Yulanda Williams, her daughter and her grandson drove in from Madison Heights and were the second car in the line around 7 a.m.

"I need some food assistance; every little bit helps," she said. "I can't get food stamps; I'm on disability from losing my dad. ... Thank God we got here early."

Helen Baker and her friend Dellean Tomas drove in from the Camp Robinson area to get food because they are both on disability and lost power during recent storms.

"[The food] does help and then I have enough to give to others," Baker said. "Sometimes I come out here, even though a lot of times I might not need it, but I come and give it to the young lady [who lives] in front of me. She has kids and I give them a lot."

The two have only been friends for about six months, but they are already close, she added.

"We know that God puts people in your life, but it's good to be good to anyone, no matter who you are. It's a blessing; that's when you'll get blessed upon," Baker said.

Randy Cage, previously a printing press worker for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was at the event to get food because his home lost power in the recent storms as well. He was sleeping in his air-conditioned car for a few nights. Cage is also on disability.

"We got our power back. Hopefully, no more storms come up," he said. "I have to give it to them, power men, for coming out there, getting everything straight. They had to work out in that heat. It's a blessing to come get this [food] ... A lot of people need it."