The Project HOPE Food Bank may be one of Garland County’s “best-kept secrets,” but it’s helped provide thousands of meals to underprivileged people in the Hot Springs area.
When the Food Bank opened in 2009, it distributed about £15,000 of food each month, and now averages £100,000 of food each month.
“We’re up to £100,000 a month, some months more, but we average about £100,000. That’s due to our volunteer workforce and working four hours a day, four days a week,” Hood said. Bank’s Assistant Director said: “So it’s got a lot going on. We’re always a really busy place, but there’s always a lot of fun.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges to food banks. Not only has the amount of food demanded increased, but food prices have skyrocketed. Prices for many “kitchen essentials” have increased 187% since 2020, according to an email from Choate.
Items listed include a 12-piece case of Peanut Butter (price increase from $11.99 to $26.90), a 12-piece case of Oatmeal ($15.82-$25.86), and a 24-piece case of Canned Chicken ($17.62- $33.94), and a 24-count case of macaroni and cheese ($6.89-$12.94).
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“We buy food in trucks and receive grants and donations to subsidize the price,” says Choate. “That’s why we offer it for less than what we would pay an agency, but it’s much better to buy a truckload of product than to go to Walmart and get a bottle or a can.” increase.”
Earlier this year, food banks were hit with a change in how food was shipped, leading to the organization acquiring new storage facilities.
“Our food broker only wanted to send a truckload, and after buying a truckload of mac and cheese or something like that, we don’t have enough space,” she said. “So we kicked off the new year and raised money to redo this building. Jim Smith donated the building, but we stripped the sheets (and) applied insulation.” did.”
The new building gave food banks the opportunity to buy food when it was available, not just when it was needed.
“This allowed us to miss out on various opportunities to get food, so we could buy food when it was available and at an affordable price,” Choate said. (It was a challenge to raise enough money to update the building. Food needs to be climate controlled, so we had to bring in heat and air. We could do it. “It shouldn’t be too hot or too cold, but to maintain a steady temperature.”
About 20 percent of the facility’s handouts go to the school’s backpacking program, Choate said.
“It’s important to make sure they have the nutrition they need to learn and participate in all of that,” she said. We work together, we work with school feeding programs, we work with crisis centers, we work with people of all kinds, all non-profits.”
One of the biggest fundraising events for food banks is Ice on Ice, where Project HOPE raised $6,000 this year.
“We wouldn’t have survived this without community support and programs like Ice on Ice and all these little food drives that people have organized to help us. …it was a great event. “Our Chamber of Commerce knows how to throw a party. They really did a great job.”
Choate applauded the support of everyone involved with Ice on Ice and the community at large.
“We are very blessed to have the support of the community. It’s the only way we can do this through community support,” she said. but now they are being bombed because so many nonprofits need help….we have a lot of support from different foundations and I It is an honor and a privilege to be able to do this within our community.”
Food banks are always happy to accept donations, either monetary or tangible gifts.
“We love food drives,” says Choate. “People love to give tangible things, but in reality, food can be purchased at a much more affordable price. But we love it all. Nothing beats a free food drive.” is not.”
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