By Kate MendelsohnArkansas Media RelationsA billion people go hungry everyday and the University of Arkansas, Lift up America and Tyson Foods, Inc. are teaming up to do something about it. Thousands of leaders, student-athletes, and volunteers all across the country have something to give and have come together to make a difference in their own community.
This will be the third year that the University of Arkansas will host the Lift Up America event. Rodger Hunter, the Student Life Coordinator for the University of Arkansas has been with the program since 2008 and helps bring Razorback athletes to Donald W. Reynolds Stadium–in the early morning and freezing temperatures to distribute thousands of pounds of Tyson product to 38 agencies in Northwest Arkansas.
“This program is special because we are doing it here, in our own backyard, and it feels like we are taking care of the people of Northwest Arkansas.” Hunter says, “It is so rewarding to know we are making a difference, helping our neighbors and our contributions are being used in this area.” Last February, nearly 15 tons of food were collected and distributed to local hunger relief agencies served by the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank. Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long and more than 89 Arkansas student-athletes from the football, swimming, tennis, track and field and women’s volleyball teams helped volunteers unload a truckload of protein products donated by Tyson Foods. “With Lift Up America we want to give the people of Northwest Arkansas more than non-perishable goods,” Hunter Said. “We want to provide them with some protein.”
More than 12.4 million children in the U.S. are at risk for hunger. USDA reports indicate that even mild under-nutrition experienced by young children during critical periods of growth affects the behavior of children, their school performance and their overall cognitive development.
“I can not say enough about our student-athletes involvement.” Hunter said, “Out of all the programs, this one is the best. It is so hard to put into words because it is so cold. Temperatures are as low as 18 or 19 degrees. The students come out anyway with the snow on the ground and it does not bother them. You will see them out there hard at work and even throwing snowballs and running around to keep warm. Our student-athletes commit to helping despite the freezing temperatures, sleet and snow.”
In 2009, the University of Arkansas provided over 93 volunteers including, 49 football players to help support the cause. Student-athlete leaders included Arkansas football players, Ben Cleveland, London Crawford, Jerry Franklin, Michael Smith, D.J. Williams and Van Stumon to name a few. In its first year to host Lift Up America, Arkansas had 45 student athletes participate and that number continues to grow exponentialy each year. Hunter believes that 2010 will be the best year yet, expecting close 200 student-athlete volunteers. “None of this would be possible without John Tyson and Tyson Foods. They are the vehicle behind the organization.” Hunter said. “Tyson has been so generous providing 30,000 pounds of protein each year. I am so thankful to the people at Tyson who have made this all possible.”Tyson Foods, Inc. donates 30,000 pounds of protein, which will be distributed by the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank to those in need. Since joining the campaign against hunger, Tyson Foods has partnered with several national organizations and donated more than 54 million pounds of chicken, beef or pork. Tyson Foods has provided 216 million meals to food banks and agencies serving local communities across the nation. In December of 2004, Dave Hannah partnered with John Tyson of Tyson Foods with a vision and together the idea of Lift Up America developed. In the first year, Tyson Foods teamed with the Miami Dolphins, the Kansas City Chiefs, and over 30 charitable organizations to distribute 74,000 pounds of frozen chicken or 370,000 meals to those in need. In 2005, Lift Up America’s efforts expanded exponentially as 27 sports teams in 23 cities helped lift up the less fortunate around America. The dream team of The University of Arkansas, Lift Up America and Tyson Foods, Inc. are leading the campaign to create change and win the fight against hunger in Northwest Arkansas. The University of Arkansas will host the Lift Up America event Saturday, January 23, 2010, at 9 a.m., in Fayetteville in the Broyles Center parking lot. Together with the help of the community, heroes will evolve and together can truly Lift Up America. Thank you Northwest Arkansas for all your contributions and generosity. For more information about Lift Up America and their partners, please visit www.liftupamerica.org. For more information on how to get involved in the fight against hunger, go to http://hungerrelief.tyson.com.