• By Bruce Schultz •
Louisiana rice industry leaders kicked off the National Rice Month with donations of rice totaling almost 32,000 pounds to area food banks.
A donation of 15,000 pounds of rice to the Second Harvest Food Bank was made by area rice mills, including Supreme Rice Mill of Crowley; Planters Rice Mill of Abbeville; Farmers Rice Mill of Lake Charles; and Falcon Rice Mill recently.
Two days later, the Kennedy Rice Mill in Mer Rouge donated 1,800 pounds of rice to the Northeast Louisiana Food Bank based in Monroe.
This year commemorates the 29th anniversary of National Rice Month, sponsored by USA Rice, and it is celebrated with events around the country.
The Second Harvest Food Bank provides food to more than 700 community partners and programs such as food pantries, group homes, shelters and meal sites across 23 parishes in south Louisiana. In 2018, the Second Harvest Food Bank provided approximately 32 million meals to the needy.
Natasha Curley, of the Second Harvest Food Bank, said rice has become an important part of the organization’s program. “I love rice because I’ve seen firsthand the amount of good that rice can do,” she said.
The Northeast Louisiana Food Bank distributes more than 4.8 million pounds of food through 60 partner agencies and children and senior programs. Jean Toth, food bank director, said 69,000 people in northeast Louisiana are food insecure. “It means they worry about not having enough food to eat,” she said.
Rice works well for food banks
John Owen, chairman of the Louisiana Rice Promotion Board, said in Monroe that rice works well for food banks because of its nutritional quality and long shelf life.
Rice farming has environmental benefits by providing waterfowl habitat, and it contributes to the diversified agricultural base. “I’m really proud to be involved in the Louisiana rice industry,” Owen said.
Total rice donations to food banks in Louisiana last year exceeded 100,000 pounds, said Kane Webb, USA Rice field representative in Louisiana.
Curley said a 42,000-pound donation last year by Falcon Rice Mill of Crowley was the largest contribution of rice to Second Harvest. Falcon agreed to a match for every 5-pound bag of rice purchased by consumers in September 2018, and Robbie Trahan of Falcon said he will continue the donation this year. Curley said September also is Hunger Action Month.
Farmer Alan Lawson of Crowley read a proclamation by Gov. John Bel Edwards recognizing September as National Rice Month and crediting farmers and mills for making the industry an important part of the state’s agricultural economy.
Several farmers, representatives of area rice mills, elected officials and political candidates attended both events.
At the Monroe gathering, state Rep. Charles “Bubba” Chaney read the governor’s proclamation.
“This state recognizes the importance of the rice industry,” Chaney said.
Congressman Ralph Abraham of Alto said at the Crowley event that the U.S. relationship with Iraq has resulted in the sales of 300,000 metric tons of rice, and most of it was grown in Louisiana.
Coincidentally, a ship is being loaded at the Port of Lake Charles with milled Louisiana rice purchased by Iraq. About half of the rice grown in the U.S. is exported.
Bruce Schultz is assistant communications specialist at the LSU AgCenter. He may be reached at BSchultz@agcenter.lsu.edu