Harvest: Beyond the Box

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In 2021, Harvest Regional Food Bank provided close to 4 million pounds of food for our local community, and their goal for 2022 is even higher. “Many People don’t realize millions of pounds of food come in and out of our facility and go to more than 75 different pantries in a ten county area. Our service area includes 9 counties in SouthWest Arkansas and Bowie County Texas. That four million pounds of food equals out to around 3.4 million meals for families across the area,” said CEO and Executive Director of Harvest Regional Food Bank Camille Wrinkle

“The largest avenue that we have for getting food out to our local communities is through church pantries and local partnerships. Because of COVID, we had to change the ways we did things. So instead of allowing people to come inside, we moved into a drive-thru style entry. We started doing that in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, and we are still doing that now. We try to ensure that we are safe for our recipients and our volunteers, and it has worked out better than we could have imagined,“said Camille.

“Something that happened as a result of the pandemic, was an increase in the number of mobile pantries that Harvest has held. We go to rural communities that don’t have as many options for hunger relief and distribute food through our mobile pantry program. These pop-up style pantries allow us to work with elected officials and local sheriff offices to provide family food boxes to food insecure families. Because of the pandemic those programs have actually doubled in size. We found that because of the increase in people who were are in need of hunger relief, there was also a need for us to do mobile pantries here in the Texarkana area,” said Camille. “The mobile pantries we have conducted have had great success, including events held at Four States FairGrounds and First Baptist Church on Moores Lane, which have helped us reach the growing number of food insecure families in our own backyard,” said Camille.

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Harvest has set some high goals for the 2022 year, and they are eager and excited to continue serving our local community. “In the New Year we want to continue to serve our community of youth through our local school pantries and backpack programs. Arkansas has the second highest rate for childhood food insecurity, while Texas is in the top ten. A lot of individuals don’t realize that a fourth of our programs are actually serving children under the age of 18. Through our backpack program we are helping students get through the weekend with nutritious and kid friendly easy-to-open items,” said Camille.

“Another 25% of the individuals we serve are those in the senior citizen community. A lot of times those two very vulnerable populations are living together, or are in the same household. Because of this, we have really tried to combine those services so that we are meeting the needs of the entire household. Especially during the pandemic, We have began using our schools as a distribution center for some of our senior boxes and even our family boxes,” said Camille.

“Our main goal in 2022 is to continue providing the same level of service that we have been over the last few years. Before the pandemic our goals were to really help improve the lives of those we serve by starting nutritional programs and wellness classes, such as how to cook on a budget. We have to go beyond the box, and although we haven’t had an opportunity to do that because of the pandemic, we want to try as best we can throughout 2022 to get those programs back off the ground. We truly have an amazing team, and we are so proud that we have accomplished everything we have with such a small group. Without them and their hard work and dedication we wouldn’t be able to do it all,” said Camille.

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