Letter from the CEO
The Commodity Distribution Program, also known as The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), is one of the Food Bank's largest programs. TEFAP is a federal nutrition program that is authorized under the Nutrition Title of the Farm Bill. This program purchases farm commodities that are grown or raised in the U.S. then donates this food to nonprofit organizations across the nation to distribute to people facing hunger.
As Congress works to renew the Farm Bill this year, we wanted to take this opportunity to spotlight this important program that is vital to our state's agricultural economy in addition to providing nutritious food to low-income families.
The first commodity distribution program in the United States began in the 1930s when crop prices fell as a result of WWI, the Great Depression, and the Dust Bowl. At the time, the program was called the Needy Family Program. Many things have changed regarding the distribution of commodities, but one person has remained a constant for the commodity distributions in Clay County for more than 65 years: Pat Clayton.
Pat started helping with commodity distributions when she was just 6 years old. "Dad would always say, 'You kids get ready, we're going to get our food today and you've got to help these people," Pat said. "We didn't carry it because we had to drag it because then we got so much. People had it in tote sacks and stuff and we drug it to their cars for the older people for them to put their stuff in their car. They had to put it in their car because we couldn't pick it up."
What brought you to the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas?
I started a food pantry at Herman Missionary Baptist Church August 30, 2013. After I told my Pastor at Herman that I thought God was leading me to start a food pantry at Herman, I started having doubts. I didn't know if I could get enough volunteers to help. I didn't have a clue about running a food pantry, but I was pretty sure God was telling me to do that! And then I got a call from a parent at Westside Elementary School. She wanted me to come to one of the elementary classes and talk about how to start a food pantry. I thought "Wow, God is all over this. This is definitely what He wants me to do!" I enjoyed working in the Herman Food Pantry so much, I found myself praying to God that if there was some kind of job I could do, that would be like working in the Herman Food Pantry, that would be awesome! I was working as a respiratory therapist. So, I went from helping people to breathe easier, to helping feed people. I was out of the workforce for about eight months to help take care of my mom. I was talking and emailing with Scarlett Mullins at the time. We were trying to get started as an agency of the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas. Scarlett told me about the USDA Coordinator position being open, so I applied and interviewed with Christie. June 29, 2015 I was the new USDA Coordinator with the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas. God answers prayers!
What is your favorite part of the job?
I enjoy doing the commodity distributions. In enjoy the opportunity to work with the different ministries, such as Jumpstart, John 3:17, Agape House, and all of the volunteers. They help so much! We could not do what we do at the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas without our volunteers! It is such a blessing to serve!
What is your least favorite part of the job?
Distributions in the rain.
What has impacted you most since you started working at the Food Bank?
I never for one minute even thought I would be working at the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas. I never really new what all the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas did until I started working here. It has truly been a blessing to work here! I consider this to be the best job I have ever had! I know without a doubt, God sent me here! COVID-19 threw a curveball in the commodity distributions! I prayed a lot during that time! I thought, how are we going to do drive-through distributions? I told myself we don't have enough volunteers to do drive-through distributions! But, once again, God answers prayers! We did the drive-through distributions and are still doing drive-through distributions. Everyone involved seems to like it better and most of the time, except when it rains, it seems to work a lot better!
If you could have dinner with any 5 people, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
- Moses - I would like to talk to him about what was going through his mind when he was leading the Israelites out of Egypt.
- Billy Graham - I would like to talk to him about what it was like preaching in those huge stadiums.
- Adrian Rogers - I would like to ask him what it was like for him when he was pastor of his first church.
- Coach Larry McNair - Coach McNair was my basketball coach in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade. I haven't seen or heard from him in years. Those were my best basketball days!
- Franklin Graham - I would like to talk to him about the great ministry, Samaritan's Purse, and how that came about!