The Arkansas Foodbank is fighting the good fight against hunger with its 17th annual Empty Bowls event on Friday, May 10. The event, which takes place at the Robinson Center ballroom, is the Foodbank's signature fundraiser.

Because of Empty Bowls and generous donations throughout 2018, the Foodbank was able to distribute more than 27 million pounds of food to Arkansans. That's 61,500 meals a day. 

Empty Bowls will feature an array of delicious food from local chefs from some of Little Rock’s best restaurants. Guests will also be treated to live music, a live and silent auction and libations.

As the Arkansas Foodbank gears up for Empty Bowls, we chatted with this year's honoree Ben Noble, the vice president of marketing and strategy at Riceland Foods.


Tell us a little about you. Where are you from?

Ben Noble: I’m from Arkansas County, born and raised on a rice farm near Ethel, Arkansas. After a near 25-year trek that took me out of state and away from my roots, I’m now back "home" in Stuttgart, Arkansas.


How did you become involved with the Arkansas Foodbank?

BN: My first exposure was through my work with Senator Dale Bumpers and Senator Blanche Lincoln. Policy issues surrounding food programs brought me in regular contact with the daily work of the Arkansas Foodbank. I was inspired by their commitment and wanted to continue to help however I could.


Has working in the rice industry made you more aware of food insecurity issues statewide?

BN: As the largest miller and marketer of rice in the U.S., our family farmers feel a deep sense of responsibility to both address and raise awareness about food insecurity.


What do you love about attending the Empty Bowls event?

BN: I love that it features local chefs showcasing their passion for food and heart for others on a larger stage.


Being intimately involved with the food industry in Arkansas, what are some ways that you help fight hunger through your work and in your everyday life?

BN: Riceland and industry allies within the Arkansas Rice Council donate product annually to assist the Arkansas Foodbank and Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. On a national scale, we recently partnered with Feeding America, which resulted in donations from every sale of our Christmas gift boxes. Riceland products are sold in 75 countries, but that commitment to hunger relief starts here at home.


What encouragement would you give to people looking to make a donation to the Foodbank?

BN: One out of five people in Arkansas don’t know where their next meal will come from. Many of them are children or elderly. Do what you can because a little bit goes a long way. One way people can help today is by supporting the Arkansas Foodbank’s Bridging Hope Capital Campaign to construct a new packaging and processing center. That will allow them to accept more donations, including larger fresh food donations, and provide the space the Foodbank needs for more volunteers to give their time to fight hunger across our state.


For more info about this year's Empty Bowls event, head to the Foodbank's website

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