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City: Little Rock
Category: Nonprofit Organization of the Year
The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance is a statewide organization that works with food banks, food pantries, schools, churches, businesses and government agencies to help those in need access food.
It also advocates at all levels of government to address the causes of hunger. “We try to attack the problem of hunger in many different ways, and we want to make sure we’re also looking at systemic causes, and that’s where our advocacy work comes in,” Executive Director Kathy Webb said.
“One of the challenges we face on a daily basis is that some people find it hard to believe that there’s hunger in a state that is also known as an agricultural state,” she said. “Another challenge — and I think this is where we’ve made the greatest accomplishment in the last few years — has been connecting hunger to all the other issues, like educational achievement and being healthy.”
Webb cited the nonprofit’s Cooking Matters program as one example of how it is making an impact. The program teaches people how to shop for and cook healthy food on a budget. Recently, Cooking Matters became a class offered to Arkansas Department of Correction inmates who are getting ready to be released.
Cooking Matters and numerous other programs help more than 100,000 people each year, Webb said. The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance has a passionate and dedicated staff of 17 full- and part-time employees and partners with approximately 500 member organizations to help those folks, she said.
“We meet wonderful people every day who never thought they’d be hungry. We are inspired by the people we meet every day who work so hard and still struggle to have enough food for themselves and their families,” Webb said.
Looking ahead, the nonprofit plans to focus on seniors this year because of their low participation in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, and to increase the number of sites where children can access meals outside of school.