Here are the top five food efforts to end hunger in Arkansas and how you can support them!
In many of the schools Arkansas Dream Center (ARDC) serves, more than 90% of the kids depend upon free or reduced meals at school. Only 16% of these kids will have access to regular meals at home, so when school is out, there is no dependable source of food available. ARDC offers after-school meals all over Pulaski County and at most of the Central Arkansas Libraries. In the past, summer feeding programs have depended upon kids coming to them. However, many kids are too young to travel to many of these sites. ARDC overcomes this problem by taking the food directly to the kids who need it most by going mobile. In 2016 they fed over 150,000 meals to the most at-risk children. To donate or volunteer visit ARDreamCenter.TV.
Almost 40% of children in need are starting their day without a healthy school breakfast or any breakfast at all. The stats speak for themselves: children who receive a school breakfasts score 17.5% higher on math tests and are 20% more likely to graduate high school. In Arkansas, No Kid Hungry is working with Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance to bring together community, state and federal resources to end child hunger across the state and ensure more of Arkansas’ kids eat school breakfast, participate in after-school meals programs and have access to summer meals. Tickets to the Little Rock No Kid Hungry Dinner on October 23 hosted by South on Main’s Chef Matt Bell are on sale now at NoKidHungry.org.
In January 2016, the Arkansas Foodbank and Arkansas Rice Depot united to better fight hunger and fulfill their shared mission of feeding hungry Arkansans more healthy and nutritious food. Last year alone they provided 16.2 million meals and were able to provide five meals with every dollar donated. Programs like Food For Kids, Food For Families and Food For Seniors provide food and other resources for more than 450 food pantries, soup kitchens, schools, colleges, shelters, senior centers and other agencies that provide aid directly to those in need. “Nothing can measure what it means to help everyday people take control of their lives,” says the organization. “For these individuals, hope is a hot meal, a bag of groceries, a well-nourished child.” Arkansas Foodbank’s annual fundraiser, Empty Bowls, will be held on May 12. Tickets can be purchased from the Arkansas Foodbank website.
Along with their feeding programs for children and their many community groups who are mobilized to provide 77,000 meals to Our House shelter residents each year, Our House has recently launched the highly innovative program, Food Jobs Work. With this program, homeless and near-homeless clients are engaged in a six-week culinary arts program on-site at Our House using the shelter kitchen (a commercial regulated and inspected kitchen). The program is a three-way partnership among AR Food Jobs (a restaurant jobs board), Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub and Our House. Upon completion of the course, all 12 participants are moved into real job placements in the restaurant industry in the community. While they are learning, they also provide a benefit to the community by preparing lunch for shelter residents and dinner and dessert for clients participating in evening career center courses. Our House is hoping to replicate the model across the state through partners such as Goodwill. Our House’s annual fundraiser, Dinner on the Grounds, which is also a big foodie event, will be held on May 5. For tickets, visit the events page at OurHouse.org.
Heifer’s raison d’etre is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the earth, and they recently created the Heifer Urban Farm, located directly behind Heifer Village in downtown Little Rock. This three-acre plot includes a community garden, where more than 1,600 lbs of produce grown has been donated to local organizations like Our House, CARELink and the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance’s Fresh 2 You Mobile Market. On June 8, Heiffer will host their first Urban Farm Fest, and on June 9, their fifth Feast in the Field dinner event. Both raise funds to benefit projects right here in Arkansas through local agriculture and economic development. To buy tickets visit Heifer.org.