Feeding the Hungry: Pattern of ongoing pettiness, clandestine meetings against local pantry
Updated: Jul 14
More information has come to light following investigative research into the incident last week in which the River Valley Regional Food Bank sent our an erroneous email regarding the efforts of a local food pantry that unknowingly reached out to somemembers of their organization and offered free food to those pantry members.
Pay it Forward Fort Smith, a local stand alone food pantry, has been accepted as a recipient in the national GoFresh program and, despite the best efforts of the RVRFB, received their first truckload of products on Thursday of last week.
"We just started contacting nonprofits and offering them part of the load we received and posted on social media that we would share our blessing," said Darla Lackey, president of Pay it Forward Fort Smith. "The next day, they sent out a false email to all their members saying if they received food from us they would be ineligible tor receive food from them."
"They had also tried to block us from being in the program in the first place over issues about 'refrigeration' when they had absolutely no idea what kind of arrangements we had made," said Lackey. "Besides, we were doing a 'pop-up' event exactly like the numerous ones they had done in places like Alma, Mansfield and Poteau."
"We have confirmed with some of their members that in all the time they had been a part of River Valley Food Bank they had never received a letter warning them if they received food from anyone else it would make them ineligible," said Lackey. "Yet a day after we make our announcement and reach out randomly to nonprofits, they email them all with guidelines and regulations that didn't exist? What a coincidence!"
(Following is complete text of that email.)
Thursday afternoon, after the Pay or Forward pop-up giveaway had concluded. RVRFB sent out the following email:
(The "to" and "from" portion portion of the email and the time stamp was excised by the organization that provided the information out of fear of being 'kicked out' of RVRFB.)
"So basically, they just threw Arkansas USDA under the bus when they got caught," said Lackey. "We were told the reason they (RVRFB) had the erroneous information in the first place is that someone lied to Ms. Coney at DHS claiming PIFFS was part of RVRFB...so bad info in, bad info out."
"So who lied about the situation? Was it the representatives from the USDA or RVRFB....or does the high-priced salaried administration of the of the RVRFB just not know the regulations they operate under?" asked Lackey. "Either way, I find it disconcerting and think it's something that should be addressed."
The most recent incidents involving Engels and RVRFB seemingly working against PIFFS are just the latest in a long line of slanders that have been perpetrated against her organization, Lackey said.
Today in Fort Smith has also been furnished a copy of an email sent to Crawford-Sebastian Community Development head Mark Baker by a private citizen concerning the ongoing denouncements of PIFFS by RVRFB.
The redacted version is as follows:
"So the latest is just same stuff, different day," said Lackey."There is a lot there to grasp, but I guess my first question is why the director of RVRFB is having clandestine meetings at the library with a woman who got removed from our board for just cause who tried to create a coup and take the organization away from me? And when that failed, the harassment and false police report was next."
"And there is another lady that runs a food pantry in Fort Smith who is on the board of RVRFB that takes in a lot more in donations then us," said Lackey. "Tracy Engel doesn't seem to have a problem with THAT person serving on the board of a food pantry."
"They have caused us past donations because of their lies and falsehoods, and the attorney tells us that there is no way of placing a monetary value on those losses and potential future donations we may never see because of their continued attacks on our organization."
"People are starting to see through the nonsense," said lackey. "We're getting encouraging calls and things are picking up for us, but not the way it would have if they had left us alone."
Lackey said her one regret is having ever applied to the RVRFB to be a member.
"Had I known about their petty nature, their restrictive rules and their 'handling fees' I probably never would have applied," said Lackey "We tried four times and others that have come on board have convinced me we are better off without paying them for the pleasure of helping people."
"I just know this is gone on long enough," said Lackey. "We're just waiting for the next shoe to drop."
"While other were plotting and planning against us last week, we were other there giving away food in the middle of that thunderstorm that hit," said Lackey. "People don't get any less hungry because the sun isn't shining or because they don't live on the right side of a county line."
"We blessed 728 families comprising 1879 individuals, so we must be doing something right."