By Kane Webb, USA Rice
CROWLEY, LA -- National Rice Month was celebrated all across Louisiana this September, and this past week, there was something for everyone, both young and young at heart.
The Cal Cam Rice Growers Association and the Port of Lake Charles hosted the 21st Annual Louisiana Rice Cook Off where 15 area middle and high school students competed in several categories for the top prize. The student chefs and their teachers also toured the Port of Lake Charles facilities and walked through one of the large warehouses where milled rice set for delivery to Iraq was stacked as far as the eye could see. Participants received gift bags from the Cal-Cam Rice Growers Association and USA Rice, and brand new rice cookers from Farmers Rice Mill in Lake Charles.
Rice donations are a big part of NRM in Louisiana and Julie and Christian Richard, of Richard Farms from Indian Bayou, started things off by donating 4,000 pounds of rice to the Kaplan Food Bank, delivered with the help of Kaplan High School FFA students and Farmers Rice Mill.
Donations continued with the 28th Annual LA Rice Industry's National Rice Month/Hunger Awareness Month celebration here on Monday. The City of Crowley rolled out the red carpet for this year's event, held in front of the historic Rice Theatre, where the landmark marquee read, "Celebrate 2018 National Rice Month."
State Representatives Mark Abraham and Johnny Guinn were on hand, along with other local dignitaries, to hear Congressman Clay Higgins present the proclamation of September as Rice Month in Louisiana to the crowd gathered in front of the theater.
The LA Rice Growers Association, and the mills of south Louisiana presented Second Harvest Food Bank of Acadiana and the Louisiana Food Bank Association with 55,000 pounds of rice. Along with Falcon Rice Mills' matching program for Second Harvest, contributors included Farmers Rice Mill, Supreme Rice Mill, and Planters Rice Mill.
"The best thing we can have on our shelves is white rice," said Second Harvest COO John Dziurgot.
Celebrations continued the following day, in West Monroe, where the NELA Rice Growers Association, and Kennedy Rice Mill of Mer Rouge, presented the NELA Food Bank with a donation of 47,000 pounds of rice in an event at the West Monroe Farmer's Market.
Jean Toth, CEO of the NELA Food Bank, thanked the growers and Kennedy Rice Mill representatives on hand for their generosity and support. "This will go a long way with the holiday season approaching, and rice is one of the most nutritious and popular items we can provide to those families in need."
State Senator Francis Thompson read the Governor's NRM Proclamation, and John Owen, chair of the Louisiana Rice Promotion Board made the official rice at donation at both events.
"The more than 100,000 pounds of rice donated over these past few days, providing 1.6 million portions of rice to Louisiana families, makes me proud of this industry, and I invite all Louisiana citizens to celebrate this month," said Owen.