Main menu


Spa City Food Bank distributing 50 tons per month

featured image

HOT SPRINGS – Project HOPE Food Bank may be one of Garland County’s “best kept secrets,” but it helps provide thousands of meals to the less fortunate in the Hot Springs area.

When the food bank opened in 2009, it was distributing approximately 15,000 pounds of food per month, and now provides an average of 100,000 pounds of food each month.

“We’re up to nearly £100,000 a month – some months way beyond that – but on average around £100,000, and that’s on volunteer labor and four hours a day, four days a week,” Becky Choate, the food bank’s assistant manager, said. “So there’s a lot going on. We’re always really busy, but we’re always having a lot of fun.”

The covid-19 pandemic has brought many challenges to the food bank. Not only has there been an increase in the amount of food demanded, but food prices have skyrocketed. According to an email from Choate, prices for many “kitchen staples” have risen 187% since 2020.

Some of the items listed include a case of 12 boxes of peanut butter (increased from $11.99 to $26.90), a case of 12 boxes of oatmeal ($15.82 – $25.86) , a case of 24 cans of canned chicken ($17.62 – $33.94) and a case of 24 macaroni and cheese ($6.89 – $12.94).

“We buy food by truck, and we take our grants and our donations, and we subsidize the price,” Choate said. “So we offer it to agencies for less than we pay, but we can get a much better price on the product by buying it by the full truckload instead of running to Walmart and getting a jar or a can. “

Early in the year, the food bank was hit with a change in the way food supplies were shipped, leading the organization to secure a new storage building.

“Our food brokers only wanted to send truckloads, and after you buy a truckload of macaroni and cheese or something like that, you don’t have enough room,” she said. So we started the new year by raising funds to redo this building. Jim Smith donated the building, but we removed the tarps [and] applied insulation.

The new building gave the food bank the ability to purchase food when it was available, not just when it was needed.

“It allowed us to buy food when it was available and affordable because we were missing out on a lot of different opportunities to get food,” Choate said. This is how we started the year. It was a challenge to raise enough money to be able to [make the updates to the building]. We had to put in heat and air because the food needs to be air conditioned. You can’t let it get too hot or too cold, just to keep the right temperature constant.”

Choate said about 20% of the facility’s distribution goes to school backpack programs.

“It’s important to make sure they have the nutrition they need to learn and be part of all of this,” she said. “We do feeding programs. We work with children’s homes. We work with feeding programs, crisis centers, just all kinds of people — all nonprofits.”

One of the food bank’s biggest fundraising events is Ice on Ice, which raised $6,000 for Project HOPE this year.

“We wouldn’t have survived this without the community support and programs like Ice on Ice and all these little food drives that people put together to help us. … It was an amazing event,” Choate said. “I’ll tell you, our chamber knows how to throw a party. They really did an amazing job.”

Choate congratulates everyone involved in Ice on Ice and the entire community for their support.

“We are totally blessed to have the support of the community, and the only way to do this is through community support,” she said. “We get grants from foundations and everything, but right now, because so many nonprofits are in need, they’re bombarded. … We have a lot of support from different foundations, and being able to do that in our community is an honor and a privilege.”

The food bank is always happy to accept donations, whether monetary or in-kind.

“We love food drives,” Choate said. “People like to give tangible things, but really, we can buy much more affordable food. But we like everything. You can’t beat free food drives.”

Photo Project HOPE Food Bank Assistant Manager Becky Choate discusses food bank services and the challenges it faces. Photo by Donald Cross from The Sentinel-Record