Three Arkansas rice companies donated hundreds of pounds of rice in 2023
Donations provide boost to University of Arkansas, Fayetteville campus food pantry
Arkansas accounted for nearly 50 percent of U.S. rice production last year
Meullenet, while serving as interim dean since July 2022, is also senior associate vice president for agriculture research with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. Meullenet recognized an opportunity to use his food industry connections to help.
FAYETTEVILLE — In 2023, three Arkansas-based rice companies helped address food insecurity at the University of Arkansas by donating hundreds of pounds of rice to the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry.
Cormier Rice Milling Co., Riceland and Producers Rice Mill donated to the food pantry and pledged to donate even more. Cormier recently sent 625 pounds to Fayetteville while Riceland and Producers sent 200 pounds each, with more to follow.
Caroline Wilson, the chair for Full Circle Food Pantry, emphasized the needs of the pantry, specifically with rice. She noted how demand for rice means it goes quickly at the pantry.
“Rice is a staple crop and food that so many people use every single day,” Wilson said. “We have a lot of international students on campus who are clients at our pantry because, for international students, we are the only food resource that they are allowed to use. Most food assistance programs are limited to U.S. citizens only. For our international clients, this is literally their only option.”
Wilson also explained that international students at the University of Arkansas on a visa struggle even more because they legally cannot work more than 20 hours weekly. This creates strain on their finances and the ability to afford groceries and other essentials.
“It’s really important for us to provide foods that are used daily in peoples’ diets,” she said. “The rice on our shelves right now may look like a lot, but that will not even last us through the semester. We just go through it so quickly because it's something that so many people love.”
Katelyn Helberg, the alternative assistance coordinator for the pantry, also said the pantry is often in need of rice.
“Rice is something that a lot of our clients typically want,” Helberg said “We’re currently serving around 1,100 clients a month. You can imagine how many people we’re trying to distribute to, and rice is something more expensive for us to buy and supply in the pantry.”
Back in the fall 2022 semester, a group of students visited with the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences Dean’s Partnership Council. The students shared information about food insecurity on campus with Jean-Francois Meullenet, interim dean of the college.