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Rice Depot celebrates 30 years 

This year, the Arkansas Rice Depot honors its 30th anniversary of feeding Arkansas's hungry. Since 1972, thanks to donations and volunteer support, the Depot has been able to serve 15 percent of the state's population — approximately 441,000 people every year — focusing on kids, families, seniors and victims of natural disasters. Ninety-eight cents of every dollar given to the Depot goes directly to the purchasing and transporting of food, a sign that the Depot's success relies heavily on its massive volunteer base and the planning of its small staff. According to a USDA 2011 study, 18.6 percent of Arkansas households are food insecure, which is more than the Depot can currently feed. Get more information or donate by visiting www.ricedepot.org or by calling 501-565-8855. A lot of helping hands:

Approximately 6,371 volunteers work 19,639 hours a year at the Arkansas Rice Depot, which equals almost 9.5 staff. They are church groups, retirees, professionals, youth groups, and they come from all over the state. Volunteers do everything from packing disaster relief bags to running food drives and getting up at the crack of dawn to help pack the food trucks. One long-time volunteer, a retired engineer, recently created a traffic-flow map using AutoCAD software to calculate the most efficient road routes for the Depot's delivery trucks.

A lot of road time:

The Arkansas Rice Depot delivers nearly 9 million pounds of food a year to hungry Arkansans, reaching all 75 counties in the state. An 18-wheeler delivers food monthly throughout Arkansas from Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Norfork, Jonesboro, Blytheville, Helena-West Helena, McGehee, Fordyce, Magnolia, and El Dorado. Four large "Sprinter" vans deliver food five days a week to 620 schools in every county. Two of the vans have over 300,000 miles on them and the Depot desperately needs new vehicles to continue their food transportation.

A lot of food:

Last year, more than 35,000 backpacks filled with food were shipped to 620 schools, through the Arkansas Rice Depot's Food for Kids program, which provides nutritious meals for children whose only main meal of the day is school lunch. This year, there are more hungry mouths than the Arkansas Rice Depot can currently feed. The Rice Depot said the best way to help is by donating money so that the Depot can purchase and fairly distribute meals to Arkansas's hungry youth.

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