Arkansas Rice Federation will donate 240,000 pounds of rice to Arkansas Food Bank

Warehouse manager Kyle Thomas unloads a pallet of rice that was donated Wednesday to the Arkansas Food Bank in Little Rock honoring National Rice Month. The Arkansas Rice Federation donated 240,000 pounds of rice to be distributed across the state. The rice will provide 1.8 million servings of rice to feed families, children and seniors, according to the Rice Federation. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

The Arkansas Rice Federation will donate 240,000 pounds of rice to the Arkansas Food Bank, Jeff Rutledge, a rice producer from Newport, announced Wednesday.

Speaking at a news conference at the Arkansas Food Bank in Little Rock, Rutledge said the donation is equivalent to 1.8 million servings of rice that will help alleviate hunger in the state.

Brian Burton, CEO of the Arkansas Food Bank, said inflation, supply chain issues and the end of federal governmental pandemic relief has put a strain on non-profits like his.

"Food banks have really been squeezed," Burton said. "So this incredible donation could not have come at a better time."

Burton said the donation will be shared with every Feed America Food Bank in Arkansas.

"This rice will flow out into every single county throughout our state," he said.

According to Feeding America, 1 in 6 Arkansans face hunger, including 1 in 5 children. In Arkansas, 9% of the state's population participates in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, compared to 12% nationally.

Of those receiving SNAP benefits in Arkansas in fiscal year 2022, 71% are families with children, 41% have family members who are elderly or disabled and 40% are working families, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-profit based in Washington D.C.

"We consider it an honor as an industry to be able to share some of the blessing that we have been blessed with to help those who are less fortunate and suffering from food insecurity in our state," Rutledge said.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who attended the news conference, signed a proclamation last month declaring September Arkansas Rice Month.

"Not only does the Arkansas Food Bank provide for and help so many families and communities across our state, but to see them partner with our rice community is such a special and important thing," Sanders said during Wednesday's announcement.

  photo  Jeff Rutledge, a rice farmer from Newport, announces the Arkansas Rice Federation’s donation of 240,000 pounds of rice to the Arkansas Food Bank in Little Rock on Wednesday. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)