More than 1 Million Meals Collected to Fight Hunger

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Two months ago Arvest Bank launched the 1 Million Meals initiative to fight hunger in the 90 communities the bank serves.

Tuesday the bank announced it exceeded the campaign goal by raising a total of 1,384,578 million meals.

Of those meals, 391,051 will stay in Northwest Arkansas.

”This is an incredible event because not only is it the holidays, but there are so many people that need food," said Marge Wolf, Northwest Arkansas Food Bank President/CEO. "There are so many people and families that wouldn’t have anything if it wasn’t for this type of an event and for the food that comes from all of these organizations.”

All money and nonperishable food items raised through the campaign benefited 44 different organizations feeding local communities in four states - Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Last year the NWA Food Bank alone distributed around 5.5 million pounds of food but Wolf said this year that number has jumped to well over six million.

"With the size of our communities, if you think about everyone in the community giving just one can of food to help fight hunger, we can make a tremendous impact on the fight against hunger in our communities.”

It was all made possible through donations from the bank, Arvest employees, customers and local residents through in-branch fundraisers and nonperishable food drives.

“We are so glad that through this campaign, Arvest was able to raise both food and money for people who are in need,” said Craig Rivaldo, Arvest Bank president and CEO of the Fort Smith/River Valley region.

In Fort Smith/River Valley region, two organizations were chosen to receive donations from the 1 Million Meals campaign: the Community Services Clearinghouse and the Arkansas Rice Depot.

115,589 meals total were raised in the Fort Smith/River Valley region.

“We hope that with increased awareness about hunger in our hometowns the community will continue to help throughout the year,” said Rivaldo. “I’m proud of our associates and customers for this great accomplishment and thankful for the generosity of the people in this area. I know that through this effort we have been able to impact the fight against hunger.”

According to a news release, the bank’s decision to provide one million meals was based on the fact that hunger is an issue in every community Arvest serves. The campaign wraps up just in time for the holidays, helping to meet the increased need food banks and hunger organizations face this time of year.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2011 report on household food security, nearly 49 million Americans are unable to get the nutritious food they need on a regular basis.

Gaye Wilcox, Arvest Bank Sales Manager, said there is an increasing need for food donations.

”It used to be just during the holiday season it got really, really high but now it’s year round but during the holiday season it’s even more special because people know that they want to sit down with their family to a Thanksgiving dinner or at Christmas time to a Christmas dinner,” Wilcox said.

Arvest Bank will be accepting both food and monetary donations through the end of the year.

The Northwest Arkansas Food Bank accepts donations of all types but peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, and canned vegetables are among some of the most needed items.