Message from Alliance CEO Kathy Webb

Feb 19, 2024 | Blog

As the end of my time as CEO of the Alliance approaches, I’ve been reflecting on the people I’ve been privileged to work with—the Alliance team and Board of Directors, our many partners across the state, a lot of elected officials, and above all, Arkansans struggling with food insecurity. They have trusted us with their stories, hoping we could and WOULD fight for and with them.

I want to share three brief stories that have driven me to do better and be bold all these years. 

First, A veteran called our office looking for food. He’d just been dismissed from the hospital, and though he had a meal delivery service for which he qualified set for the next week, he said he had no food. None. While we aren’t a pantry, there was something about his voice. Temeka Williams and I went to the grocery store and filled a basket, buying food with our own money. When we pulled up at his apartment, he was outside standing ramrod straight like a soldier, with a military baseball cap on. We carried the groceries inside, filling his completely empty refrigerator and bare cabinet. Since then, we’ve made working with veterans and members of the military a priority, helping with SNAP applications, providing emergency grocery cards when available, and working with agencies that serve our service members.

Second, while at a summer meal site in southwest Arkansas, a team member asked a nine-year-old girl how she liked her meal. The little girl looked directly at her and said, “I’m just happy to have a meal.” That was like a gut-punch, especially because I had three nine-year-old great nieces and nephews at the time… with, gratefully, very different summer experiences. Since then, Patty, the No Kid Hungry Arkansas team and I have worked relentlessly to expand access to summer meals, often with Senator John Boozman. Through advocacy, grants to schools and community organizations, as well as technical assistance, have allowed schools and groups to expand their summer programs. And expand them a lot. We expect to see big increases this summer.

Third, a state senator called me one day, a little agitated. A call with a constituent on a fixed income was recounted to me. She told the senator that each day she split her pills in half. Each day. That allowed her to buy ground beef once a week for protein. The senator said, “you’ve got to do something.” And we did…  Michelle Shope and I worked to create and fund the ONLY fresh ground beef program in the country, accepting donations of livestock and purchasing cows to provide ground beef through food banks and pantries across the state. Currently, we’re purchasing 30 cows a month—not a lot, but it makes a difference. When you split your pills, you aren’t able to thrive.

There are dozens more people I’ll never forget—and I’ll share more reflections of how they’ve impacted me and our work on our website next month. Thank you for supporting the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.

Click here to watch Congressman French Hill, representing the 2nd Congressional District of Arkansas, speak on the House Floor to honor our outgoing CEO Kathy Webb.