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Fundraiser planned by Arkansas nonprofit that aims to reduce food waste

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Potluck Food Rescue
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Potluck Food Rescue works to help those in need by distributing food that would otherwise be thrown away.

September is Hunger Action Month with one central Arkansas nonprofit group that works to reduce the amount of healthy food that is thrown away holding its annual fundraiser.

For more than three decades, Potluck Food Rescue has been collaborating with partner organizations to distribute food to those in need. Executive Director Sylvia Blain says with inflation causing the cost of goods and services to rise, the need for assistance is also growing.

The goal of the “Driving Away Hunger” event, she says, is to raise awareness of the problem and to raise funds for the group’s ongoing efforts. Food is distributed for free or composted when it’s edible. In addition to trying to help feed those who don’t get enough to eat, Blaine says there is also the goal of reducing waste sent to landfills.

The fundraiser will be held Thursday beginning at 6 p.m. at The Rail Yard, 1212 E. 6th Street in Little Rock’s East Village. Individual tickets are $75. Online ticket sales will end at 10 a.m. on Thursday, but will be available at the door. More information can be found on the group’s website.

In advance of the event, Blain spoke with KUAR News. Below is a transcript of the conversation that aired Tuesday during "All Things Considered."

First, tell me about your group and what y’all do?

Well, Potluck Food Rescue recovers good, edible food from area commercial kitchens and grocers and we redistribute it free of charge to area hunger relief agencies.

So, it sounds like you guys kind of take what otherwise would be food waste and get it to people who could use that food.

Absolutely. We are redirecting about 10,000 pounds of food weekly at this point and we have food donor partners all over the central Arkansas area. We have agencies from six counties that we serve. 40% of the food that is produced in the United States is wasted, much of that going into landfills and creating more of a problem for our environment. So not only are we fighting hunger in central Arkansas, we are fighting climate change by doing our best to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

And why is 40% wasted? What's the backstory there?

Oh, that's probably longer than we can do in the few minutes that we have, but it's wasted really at every level: at production, at manufacturing, at distribution, at sales and then post-consumer. So, there are actions that we can take at every level, and food rescue and food recovery, as it's known in the industry, can be a part at almost every level of redirecting that food that would go into the landfill for other uses.

And who do you provide food to?

Well, there's a long list and I would say the best way to get the entire list is to check our website at potluckfoodrescue.org, but all of the agencies that you're familiar with: Our House, River City Ministries, Lucie’s Place, many agencies that have either food shelters or onsite feeding programs. We’re providing food in order to help them meet their goals and not have to spend so much money on food, which is, as you well know, the cost of food has risen pretty drastically in recent months.

How big a problem is food insecurity right now here in Arkansas?

As our last statistics tell us, one-in-four people in the state of Arkansas are hungry. I expect that number to rise with food shortages and inflation continuing, at least on food items for the foreseeable future.

Yeah, high prices really are taking a big chunk of what people have.

And if you think about a family, say you have a family of four or five and you’re food insecure already at the lower end of the economic chain and you're trying to stretch those dollars, you'll either do without bread or you will buy day-old bread. So, we're all having to make changes and some of us are taking a hit a lot more than others.

And tell me about what's happening Thursday, the “Driving Away Hunger” event.

Well, “Driving Away Hunger” is Thursday night at the Rail Yard. It starts at 6 p.m., tickets are $75. This is our largest and currently only in-person fundraiser. This is the source of funds that we’re allowed to use on overhead. So, many people don't realize that when you write grants or you get foundational funding, a lot of times they tell you what you can spend that money on. And for us, this is our biggest source of unrestricted funds for the year.

Michael Hibblen is News Director of UA Little Rock Public Radio. A 34-year radio veteran, he oversees the KUAR News staff, plans coverage and edits stories while also reporting and anchoring newscasts.
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