Arkansas names rice the ‘Food of the Year’

• By Lesley Dixon •

rice - food of the year

Photo courtesy USA Rice

The Arkansas Department of Heritage aims to preserve and protect Arkansas’s natural and cultural heritage, and enhance the experience of visitors and locals alike. Within the department, the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame accepts nominations from the public for restaurants, proprietors, and events that embody and celebrate Arkansas cuisine. Award winners will be announced on Feb. 24; however, the HOF has already named rice the 2020 Food of the Year!

It’s fitting recognition considering Arkansas produces more than 50% of all rice grown in the United States, the most of any state. The rice industry is the backbone of Arkansas’s agricultural economy and a culinary staple in the area’s food culture and history.

Many communities in the state’s rice-growing counties revolve around rice farms and the business they generate, and Arkansans have long been proud of their rich rice heritage. This award is a unique opportunity to educate the public on the role of rice in Arkansas’s history, as well as its future.

“We are overwhelmed with how the interest in Arkansas food continues to grow across our state,” said Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism. “We are so pleased to be leading this discussion about food as a special part of Arkansas’s heritage and culture.”

For those in Arkansas who work in the rice industry, rice is Food of the Year every year, but it is an honor to have official recognition of the cultural and historical significance of rice.

“To put things in perspective, rice is the food staple of nearly two-thirds of the world’s population,” said Gary Reifeiss, vice president of marketing and sales at Producers Rice Mill, who attended the naming ceremony recently. “The U.S. is in the top echelon of global suppliers of rice, and Arkansas produces more than 50% of the nation’s rice crop. This is certainly a testimony to our fine Arkansas rice farmers and the entire rice industry here in Arkansas.”

This article first appeared in USA Rice’s Rice Daily e-newsletter.