The River Valley Regional Food Bank has new directors to oversee service to 182 area agencies and food pantries that provide food for 62,000 people in eight counties.
Mike Ichniowski began serving as director in early April at the regional food bank, located at 1617 S. Zero St. in a former grocery store. The location also houses the Crawford-Sebastian Community Development Council (CSCDC). Inchniowski succeeds Ted Clemons, who departed in early March to pursue other interests, according to Marc Baker, executive director of CSCDC.
Marie Smith also recently was named the new director of marketing and development for the food bank after the departure of Ken Kupchick to work with Antioch for Youth and Family.
They join Tracy Engle, director of agency and volunteer relations for the past three years, in continuing a service to help those in need by providing area agencies with food.
“I think this is a very positive team with a big heart,” Baker said. “They have a great attitude. Mike and his team also bring ambassadorship to the agency and represent it in a positive light.”
Ichniowski, who has lived in Fort Smith for 35 years, said the director’s position was a “natural fit” for him after many years in both distribution and media.
The task seems daunting: Help feed thousands of people using only grant money and donations. Baker and Ichniowski both pointed to partnerships with corporations like OK Foods, Walmart, Tyson, Arvest Bank and the United Way nonprofit group to complete their mission.
Smith said she has been working with Arvest Bank and its 1 Million Meals food drive campaign.
“This is not a hand out but it is giving people a hand up and help them get on their feet,” Baker said of the food bank’s work.
During a recent tour of the food bank’s warehouse, Ichniowski pointed out they are putting a focus on providing healthier foods. Although there are still some sweets available as donations, the food bank is making more of a concentrated effort, he said, to provide foods that are less refined and have less sugar.
Engle also noted that Fort Smith will serve as host this week to the annual Arkansas Community Action Agency Association conference. The three-day event for the state’s agencies will be Wednesday through Friday at the DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Fort Smith.