Both the community and especially my team are extremely resilient. I get emotional when I talk about them. Goodness gracious, they put themselves at risk. By golly, they came to work every day and they did what they did to serve people they didn’t even know. They literally put their lives on the line.Kent Eikenberry
In January of 2021, Kent Eikenberry and the Northwest Arkansas (NWA) Food Bank team he leads were in the throes of feeding more of their neighbors than ever with the added challenge of finding new ways to do it safely due to COVID-19.
Regions Bank in Rogers, Arkansas, provided its support at the time with a $2,500 gift, funding 25,000 meals for those in need.
In honor of Feeding America’s 2023 Hunger Action Month, the bank is again donating $2,500 to NWA Food Bank, and associates are also lending their support by volunteering.
“The Northwest Arkansas Food Bank harnesses the power of our entire region to provide resources to people and families in need,” said Jaclyn Henderson, Commercial Banking leader and market executive for Regions Bank in Rogers. “Through their teaching garden, school and mobile pantries, and the host of additional programs the agency conducts, Kent and his team are innovatively leveraging resources to serve our neighbors on a larger scale. That means our gift will make an even greater impact in addressing food insecurity issues facing our community.”
Tell us what’s new at Northwest Arkansas Food Bank since we last connected.
The biggest thing that’s happened is that we’re building a new facility. We’re about 11 months from completion, and the building campaign has been fully funded.
The pandemic reaffirmed that many people are just one paycheck or disaster away from needing our help, and we’ve seen additional needs given rising inflation costs and the big cost-of-living disparity in our area. Anyone can experience food insecurity.
Whether it’s substantial contributions or $5 gifts, we’ve been truly blessed in Northwest Arkansas that people step up so we can support our neighbors in need. The new building is just one more example of that.
Beyond the additional space, what other amenities will the new building feature?
There are several big things. We’ll have a 6,000-square-foot volunteer center allowing us to host groups of up to 200. It will also be climate controlled as opposed to our current space, which reached 99 degrees recently.
We’re also going to be one of 11 Feeding America network food banks with a protein pack room. This will allow us to have a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector repackaging protein onsite so we may share it with other networks.
We’ll have over five times as many freezer slots, allowing us to maintain an inventory of frozen products and cooler space for produce.
Our new space will also have a teaching kitchen and community room offering us a place to show clients how to use and prepare fresh vegetables.
And I’m going to have a window in my office! It will be the first time I’ve had an office window since 1985.
Are there services you established during COVID-19 that you’ve decided to continue?
We did a lot more direct distribution during that time. One of the challenges food banks have is a lot of pantries are run by volunteers. As those volunteers become more mature or when there is a pandemic, it forces them to stay away. Many haven’t come back. We supplemented that with our own mobile distributions and have continued that practice.
We opened our own pantry in Rogers called Feed Rogers. It’s a little store modeled after a convenience store. The neighbor checks in, tells us the number of family members they have and shops the aisles just like a traditional grocery. The pantry was created for our clients to shop with dignity for the items they need. We’ve distributed more than 500,000 meals this year alone through Feed Rogers.
What have you realized about yourself from the experiences of the past two years?
I am so thankful I listened to God when He said I needed to come work here. I’m not always the best at listening, but I’m so glad I caught that one. This isn’t the job I do; it’s the job the community does. It’s Northwest Arkansas’ community Food Bank. I’m just the guy who’s blessed to sit behind the desk and herd the cats.
Learn More about Hunger Action Month and How Regions Has Helped
Feeding America estimates 34 million people experience food insecurity in the United States, meaning they lack consistent access to enough food for their households to live an active, healthy life.In 2008, the nonprofit established Hunger Action Month as a nationwide platform across its 200 member food banks to address the hunger crisis by raising awareness and funds.Regions Bank and its associates have supported Feeding America affiliates across the bank’s footprint for many years through financial contributions
and even media advertising
Discover where your nearest Feeding America food bank can be found.