Hunger relief effort begins with Arkansas grown foodsJuly 21, 2014
Jean Francois Meullenet, Department Head, Food Science
Michelle L. Shope, Director of Food Sourcing and Logistics
Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance
Cynthia Edwards, Deputy Secretary, Arkansas Agriculture Department
Fred Miller, Division of Agriculture Communications
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• Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance programs use Arkansas grown food to fight food insecurity in the state.
• Arkansas Agriculture Department Deputy Secretary Cynthia Edwards volunteered her services to see the alliance at work.
• The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture supports the alliance programs through the Arkansas Food Innovation Center
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Cynthia Edwards, deputy secretary of the Arkansas Agriculture Department, donned hair net and sterile gloves last Thursday to make tomato sauce for the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.
Edwards joined alliance members at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s Food Innovation Center to make the sauce, which will be sold through Arkansas retail outlets to raise money for the Arkansas Gleaning Project.
Jean Francois Meullenet, head of the Division of Agriculture’s department of food science, said the Arkansas Food Innovation Center was created to provide commercial food processing facilities and research-based expert assistance to help both entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations start locally based food systems and industries.
Michelle Shope, director of food sourcing and logistics for the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, said the Arkansas Gleaning Project uses produce left in farmers’ fields after harvest to stock food pantries located around the state. Edwards said the Arkansas Agriculture Department provided a grant to help support the project.
“The Agriculture Department supports the Gleaning Project because it helps fight food insecurity in the state using food that is grown right here in Arkansas,” Edwards said. “I wanted to participate in the program and see it in action.”
“We want to help make it a sustainable program in which Arkansans help fellow Arkansans beat hunger,” Edwards said.
Edwards added that the Arkansas Agriculture Department also supports the Arkansas Food Innovation Center’s work helping entrepreneurs start up local food industries. “Working there was a chance for me to see a great partnership in action,” she said.
Shope said the Arkansas Gleaning Project picked 1.5 million pounds of fresh produce last year that went to food banks.
“Our goal for this year is to pick 2 million pounds,” she said. “Our longer goal is to pick 5 million pounds of produce to help feed Arkansans who face food insecurity, not knowing where their next meal will come from.”
Shope said all the food picked in the Gleaning Project goes to statewide food banks as fresh produce. “Our aim is to reach a saturation point with fresh food and have sufficient excess to make preserves,” she said.
Shope added that the spaghetti sauce produced at the Arkansas Food Innovation Center was a good example of Arkansas products supporting the state’s residents, from farmers to consumers. “The ingredients come from Arkansas farms, the product is made at the University of Arkansas and sold in Arkansas stores,” she said.
“And the proceeds will go to help relieve hunger in Arkansas,” Shope concluded.
More information about the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and its programs, including the Arkansas Gleaning Project, can be found on its website: http://www.arhungeralliance.org.
The University of Arkansas is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution.