Children need nutritious food to grow and thrive. And they need it every day. Unfortunately, nearly 200,000 Arkansas children are food insecure, meaning they aren’t sure when or where they will have a nutritious snack or meal. The impact of childhood hunger is immediate and long-term. Hungry children are sick more often and are more likely to be hospitalized than food secure children. Hunger impairs physical and intellectual development. Hungry children have lower academic achievement than food secure children, as well as more behavioral problems. Adults who were hungry as children are ill prepared and less productive in the work-
force. While hunger is very much a personal issue, it is also a community issue because chronic hunger impacts the economy and quality of life in all communities.
Our goal is to test, model and export effective, cost efficient, and manageable programs that provide nutritious food to hungry children when they are not in school.
FEEDING OUR FUTURE
At the Arkansas Foodbank, we are exploring ways to create seamless access to nutritious food for children who are food insecure. We are working to answer questions such as: If a child is food insecure, how often do they have nutritious snacks or meals when they are not in school? How can we make sure children have access to nutritious food on weekends, holidays and during the summer?
REDUCING HUNGER IN ARKANSAS
We also identified a special group of children who need access to foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking. Children who are homeless present a special circumstance that requires a special response. We are working with an elementary school with a high number of children who are homeless to determine if a combination of weekend food bags and a school pantry will meet their special needs.
STRENGTHENING THE SYSTEM
An extensive evaluation of the Foodbank's Children's Programs helped us formulate a strategy we call our Feed Our Future Today Programs - a focus on effective, cost-efficient and replicable hunger relief programs targeting children. As we researched the answers to our questions, three strategies emerged that clearly met the criteria: school pantries, afterschool snack/meal programs and summer feeding.
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.
AFTERSCHOOL SNACK AND MEAL PROGRAMS
Afterschool snack and meal programs operate in local nonprofit organizations and churches, and include child-centered activities. Many children come to these programs at the end of the school day and participate in tutoring programs as well as physical and creative activities and are served a nutritious snack or meal. For many children in these programs, this is "supper" and will be the last food they have until breakfast at school the next morning.
Summer feeding provides crucial nutrition during the time school is not in session. If food-insecure children are not in school, where do they find food during the summer? The best answer is at a summer feeding site. Most sites provide breakfast, lunch and possibly a late-day meal. Many sites are "open" meaning the children do not have to be enrolled in a program (which many cannot afford); they can show up at meal time and be fed.
The Arkansas Foodbank sponsors some afterschool snack and meal sites as well as a few summer feeding programs. We also provide technical assistance and support to organizations interested in sponsoring their own programs.
Join the Arkansas Foodbank
Food insecurity rates for children in Arkansas have skyrocketed over the last ten years. The Arkansas Foodbank and its agencies have risen to the challenge, feeding thousands of children monthly with the goal to increase the Foodbank's total distribution to 26 million pounds by 2016. Join us and help Feed Our Future Today!