No one deserves to go hungry. Yet, Arkansas is second in the nation for food insecurity. One in five, or an estimated 549,000 Arkansans, does not know where their next meal may come from. Working families exist on low-wage jobs that do not pay enough to meet housing and medical expenses and also leave enough money to buy food. Approximately one-third of households in Arkansas report making tough choices like these every month.
Hunger affects all segments of the population. The majority of those turning to us for help are low income families, children, and senior citizens. However, working families with young children are now the fastest-growing group at emergency food programs in local communities. Nearly 35 percent of the households we serve are among the working poor and many families are turning to us for the first time. While we admit that we cannot control the causes of hunger, we can improve accessibility of nutritious foods to impoverished Arkansans.
Our Food For Families Program focuses on connecting our partner agencies with local, state and national resources with food and funds to strengthen their programs, ultimately enabling them to better serve their community. To do this, we employ the following tactics:
- Work to provide access to healthy and nutritious food to families;
- Partner with nearly 320 agencies that include: community pantries, soup kitchens and shelters across 33 counties;
- Provide mini-grants to build agency capacity that can serve as food credits and/or purchase equipment;
- Implement our Local Partner Development Initiative (LPDI), a program piece designed to involve local residents and resources to address hunger relief on a local community level;
- Conduct Foodbank University training sessions to improve pantry services through an array of best practices topics.
- Design and implement new program initiatives to tackle barriers to food security
The Foodbank experienced 740,429 pantry visits in 2018 across our 33-county service area; providing 27.2 million pounds of food in our 33 county service area. By improving our local partners’ capacity to serve their communities, we can increase access to healthy and nutritious foods to families that are in need while freeing up more time and resources for other needs like medical expenses, childcare and transportation. Increasing access to healthy and nutritious food is linked to better health outcomes, which means less hospital visits and more time to focus on things that really matter like family and community. Together, we can be the foundation in the fight against hunger and improve pathways to connect people to food and other resources they need to lead a healthy and productive life.