OK Foods delivers on pledge to River Valley Regional Food Bank

The River Valley Regional Food Bank received 27,750 pounds of frozen chicken meat Tuesday as part of Fort Smith-based OK Foods’ prior pledge to provide a half-million pounds of chicken to the food bank over five years.
The first donation will help provide 125,000 meals to families in the Fort Smith region. The food bank, a member of Feeding America, is located at 1617 South Zero St. in Fort Smith. Ken Kupchick, marketing director for the food bank, showed 14 pallets of frozen meat, half cooked and half uncooked, Tuesday in a new freezer supplied by a partnership between Tyson and Walmart.

Sebastian County has a child food insecurity rate of 30 percent, totaling 6,700 children in Fort Smith alone, according to Kupchick.

OK Foods President and CEO Trent Goins said it is the company’s goal to “nourish the world,” but that begins by “nourishing the most vulnerable in our local community,” Goins said in a news release.

Working in conjunction with the Crawford-Sebastian County Community Development Council, the food bank recently completed renovation of a former grocery store on Zero Street that allows 10 times more refrigeration space and four times more freezer space than the prior location.

“The new facility allows the food bank to increase its capacity to service food pantries and feeding agencies across its seven county region,” Kupchick explained.

Ted Clemons, executive director of the River Valley Regional Food Bank, said the partnership with OK Foods will provide “sustained, quality protein so desperately needed by River Valley families.”

The meat supplied by OK Foods is the same quality sold to the restaurants, Kupchick said. OK Foods gave the food bank its choice of meats to pick from, he added. Clemons requested individual bags with two chickens cut into quarters for distribution to families in need. Previously, the chicken meat was received in large cardboard boxes, mostly with leg quarters frozen together.

This new method of distribution to the food bank, with two chickens in vacuum-sealed wraps, is also an effort to encourage family meals at the dinner table, Kupchick said. It is the food bank’s goal to encourage more home-cooked meals, bringing families together for discussions with a chain reaction of accountability to their family and their community, he added.

The cooked portion of OK Foods’ donation Tuesday was breaded nuggets of boneless wing and breast meat.

The River Valley Regional Food Bank serves Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Polk, Scott, Sebastian and Yell counties through a network of 189 member agencies.

“In an area where just over 300,000 live, there are over 53,000 classified as food insecure and the food insecure include 25,000 children,” Kupchick said.

Many of those in need are are also elderly and disabled, he added. OK Foods has donated to the food bank in years past, but the new pledge of 100,000 pounds a year far surpasses their previous donations, Kupchick noted.