Gator giveaway raises $166,400 for local food banks

Gator giveaway raises $166,400 for local food banks
$166,400 raised in fundraiser benefiting backpack program at areas food banks. (Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - A Wynne woman won a new John Deere Gator Saturday, but her ticket, along with thousands of others, will help feed hungry children in Arkansas and Southeast Missouri.

Jason Aldean teamed up again this year with Greenway Equipment to give away one of his autographed Gator utility vehicles to help the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, Arkansas Food Bank, and Southeast Missouri Food Bank.

Patsy Roberts of Wynne won the Gator this year in the fundraiser that raised $166,400 for the backpack programs at the three food banks.

Christie Jordan, CEO of the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, said the food bank helps over 1,200 kids in Northeast Arkansas through their backpack program.

She said it takes $150 per child per school year to help fill those backpacks with food, leaving them with over $180,000 to raise to make sure every child in the program is provided for.

“I told Greenway last year had it not been for their fundraiser they did last year, we would not have had our backpack program fully funded,” Jordan said. “So it is just a piece of mind to know we are ahead of the game for next year.”

Jordan said that over 23,000 kids in Northeast Arkansas live in food-insecure homes.

The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas serves 12 counties and 30 back programs at schools in those counties.

The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas’ sister food bank, the Arkansas Food Bank, also benefited from the fundraiser.

Serving 33 counties in central and southern Arkansas, the money raised will help the Arkansas Food Bank feed 3,000 kids and also make ends meet, CEO Rhonda Sanders said.

On average, Sanders said, most backpacks cost around $4 for the food that goes in them.

You can donate to both the Arkansas Food Bank and Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas by going to their websites and donating. You can donate to specifically children Sanders said.

“You can also participate in food drives within your community and purchase those shelf-stable items that go into a backpack,” Sanders said.

The southeastern section of Missouri has some of the highest rates of child hunger in the state of Missouri.

“Efforts like these, the Jason Aldean and the Greenway gator giveaway are phenomenal,” Lisa Church, chief advancement officer for the Southeast Missouri Food Bank, said. “The amount of money that was raised here this weekend is going to go a long way to provide a lot of food to those people who desperately need it.”

This year’s total surpassed last year’s total of $110,390.

The money will be split three ways between the three food banks.

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