One in four Arkansas children face food insecurity, and in some rural counties, that rate is even higher. Children need nutritious food to grow and thrive, and they need it every day. Unfortunately, over 87,000 children in Central and South Arkansas are food-insecure, meaning they aren’t sure when or where they’ll receive their next meal.
The impact of childhood hunger is immediate and long-term. But with community-wide support and programs that seek to reach children—whether at home during the weekend, after school or through the summer—we can ensure children receive the food they need to grow and thrive as individuals, perform better in school and have improved emotional and physical development.
At Arkansas Foodbank, we use three strategies to create access to nutritious food for children experiencing hunger: backpacks, school pantries, and summer feeding sites.
The Backpack Program helps to provide food-insecure students with weekend meals that are easy to prepare, kid-friendly and nutritious. Arkansas Foodbank partners with 87 schools across our service area and distributes nearly 100,000 backpacks each year.
School Pantries are readily accessible sources of food assistance for low-income children aged 0-18 and their families. School pantries operate much like other food pantries, with the exception that the pantry only serves school children and their families. Sites are either located on a school’s campus or close-by, have set distribution schedules and offer ongoing food assistance services.
Summer Feeding Sites
Summer feeding sites provide crucial nutrition during the summer months when school is not in session and children lose access to free meals at the school cafeteria. Most sites provide breakfast, lunch and possibly a late-day meal. All sites are “open” meaning the children do not have to be enrolled in a program and can show up at meal-time and be fed.