by Tyler Hale
A partnership between two Little Rock-based organizations hopes to bear fruit for the whole community. The University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Heifer International signed an agreement last week on Feb. 26, creating a new partnership that will provide educational opportunities to students while contributing to Heifer’s mission of eliminating hunger and poverty.
UA Little Rock officials, including Chancellor Christina Drale, and Heifer International leaders touted the partnership has an endeavor that will advance both organizations’ missions – providing education and providing access to nutritious food.
As part of the agreement, the two organizations will serve equipment, conduct joint workshops, and UA-Little Rock students and faculty will participate in field trips, including to the Heifer International Urban Farm.
Partnerships like these “really all come down to relationships,” Heifer International Director of Philanthropy Jensen Hallett says. This partnership between UA Little Rock and Heifer has been in the works for years, she says, and officials have been nurturing relationships “to make sure that when an opportunity presented itself, we could really help that opportunity come to fruition.”
According to Heifer International Chief Financial Officer Robert “Bob” Bloom, Heifer is founded on partnerships like the one with UA Little Rock. The organization works with organizations to effect change for small-scale farmers in 21 countries throughout the world. “Heifer’s model is built on partnership. Throughout the world, we partner with hundreds of organizations, helping to take these small scale farmers from dire hunger and poverty to a place of sustainability and self-reliance,” he says.
Through this partnership, Heifer will share its best practices and resources that students will take back to use in the UA Little Rock Campus Garden. Founded in 2012, this garden helps to teach students about sustainable urban gardening and agriculture and provides food to the UA Little Rock Trojan Food Pantry to combat food insecurity.
A 2019 study from the Association of American Colleges & Universities states that more than 60 percent of college students have experienced food insecurity within a 30-day period. For students at 2-year colleges, the rate of food insecurity is 70 percent, while the rate for students at 4-year colleges is 61 percent.
“Together, we can build awareness around the importance of sustainable gardening practices, educate future problem solvers in our community and how our food entrepreneurs can make a difference in central Arkansas,” Drale says. “In addition to advancing our mutual education mission, this partnership will help us prepare our students to lead similar community-oriented efforts after they graduate and will increase our access to locally grown, nutritious food for all.”
“By working together, we’re going to be able to show that the garden – small scale agriculture – can have a tremendous impact, and the tangible outcome will be an increase in the accessibility to the local nutritious food for those in the community by providing food to the Children’s Food Pantry, community farm stands and organizations that alleviate hunger,” Bloom says.
Heifer will also be working with other UA-Little Rock departments as part of its mission. Bloom cited its efforts with the UA Little Rock department of social science, which is helping the organization to measure the personal transformation that Heifer is effecting through its work with small-scale farmers.
Students participating in the Heifer-UA Little Rock partnership will be well-positioned for future leadership, according to Drale. These efforts will help create a new generation of innovators and leaders who will be positioned as “transformational change” agents in Arkansas.
“We’re not just food. We’re also growing the abilities of our students to create transformational change for themselves and their community,” Drale says. “Our students are prepared to be innovators and responsible leaders in their fields, contributing to the cultural and economic growth of our state. This is the true beauty of partnerships like these – we all grow together.”