As a father of two, I’ve seen how important it is for children to have enough nutritious food to eat in order to lead healthy, active lives. Unfortunately, Arkansas currently ranks #3 in the nation in childhood hunger. One in four Arkansas children are food insecure, meaning they are not sure when or where their next meal will come from. This is unacceptable, and should be a challenge all Arkansans must confront.
Since coming to Congress, one of my top priorities has been working with non-profit organizations and individuals in central Arkansas who are committed to empowering all members of our community, particularly those struggling to provide food for their families.
This month's CEI blog recognizes community organizations, like the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, that are exploring ways to create seamless access to nutritious food for children who face hunger during the summer months away from school.
Summer is a Hard Time for Kids Who Face Food Insecurity
When the final bell rings on the last day of the school year, many students across Arkansas leave behind more than just paper, pencils, and homework. The summer months can mean losingthe only meals these kids can depend on ―school breakfast and school lunch. During the summer, families spend an average of $300 more on food, leaving the 165,000 Arkansas children who live in poverty at risk of going hungry.
Hunger can often be hard to identify. Click on the following link to see the face of childhood hunger, and how access to healthy food can change the lives of our fellow Arkansans: https://nokidhungry.exposure.co/heathers-story
No Kid Hungry Arkansas
I've been proud to work with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and their No Kid Hungry Arkansas campaign to help end childhood hunger in our state. They started an annual Summer Meals Program which feeds kids,18 years and younger, across Arkansas at approved summer meal sites. These meals follow federal nutrition guidelines and are provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Many summer meal sites offer educational and recreational activities as well as healthy food. Parents do not need to apply to the program to get a free summer meal for their kids, and it does not interfere with other benefits they might be receiving. In 2017, 1.4 million summer meals were served to Arkansas children through this program, however that is still less than 15% of the total need by children in our state who do not get enough to eat when school is out.
With the help from organizations like the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, we have successfully reduced child food insecurity by 5.4% since 2010. But there is still much work that needs to be done. Childhood hunger is a very difficult challenge and is primarily driven by poverty. The work of private charity groups and food donation programs will always be a vital tool to help ensure no child in Arkansas goes to bed hungry.
(Pictured below: Rep. Hill joined Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance at Arkansas Children's Hospital to help prepare food for the Summer Meals Program.)
Creative Solutions to Solving Hunger
Creating a comprehensive strategy of surrounding children with nutritious food where they live, learn, and play allows non-profit organizations to focus resources where they can have the greatest effect, and it’s making a big difference in the lives of Arkansas children.
Local organizations in central Arkansas, including Vine and Village and the Fresh2You Mobile Farmers Market, are providing creative solutions that help strategically deliver healthy food where it is needed the most.The Fresh2You Mobile Market, along with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance are helping to bring locally grown, organic produce to food deserts throughout Little Rock.
A food desert is defined as an area in which fresh, healthy food choices are not easily accessible. This means no grocery stores are within walking or short driving distance, or that the area is home to a specific, at-risk population.
Historic Flooding Puts More Kids at Risk of Being Hungry
(Pictured below: Rep. Hill tours theFresh2You Mobile Market which provides central Arkansans with access to fresh produce.)
The recent floods in central Arkansas have had a devastating impact on many families, especially those living in poverty. Many displaced Arkansans might need the services of a food pantry or a food bank for the very first time. The need for additional food supplies could last for up to six months as families rebuild and recover their homes along the Arkansas River.
(Pictured below: Rep. Hill helps serve food to victims of the recent historic flooding at the Red Cross shelter in Conway County.)
With your help, and the help of our central Arkansas charity organizations, I believe we can make a difference in the lives of countless children to ensure that they receive the proper nutrients they need to thrive during the summer months. Click on the links below if you would like to learn more about the organizations listed in this week's CEI Blog.
The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance:https://www.arhungeralliance.org/
Summer Meals Program:https://www.arhungeralliance.org/programs/no-kid-hungry/summer-meals/
Vine and Village:https://www.vineandvillage.org/
Fresh2You Mobile Farmers Market:https://www.vineandvillage.org/fresh2you-market/
Representative French Hill