LITTLE ROCK, AR (News release) - On Tuesday, June 3, state agencies and local non-profit hunger organizations along with representatives from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) gathered at the William F. Laman Library in North Little Rock to raise awareness of the importance of children getting enough nutritious food in the summer when school is out.
While more than 283,000 Arkansas kids relied on free and reduced-price school lunches for their nutrition during the 2012-2013 school year, only 45,000 kids (about 16 percent) took advantage of the USDA free summer meals program. On average, families report paying an average of $300 more to feed their families in the summer when children do not eat a school breakfast or lunch. This means too many Arkansas kids are at risk of food insecurity, and too many families are having a difficult time making ends meet in the summer months. The Arkansas Department of Human Services, Department of Education and the Arkansas No Kid Hungry Campaign are working to increase the number of children who receive nutritious food in the summer by promoting the USDA Summer Meal Service Program (SFSP).
The SFSP provides free, nutritious meals for children 18 years of age and younger in safe, supervised locations in communities across Arkansas. Churches, schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, libraries, community centers, government agencies and other authorized SFSP sponsors or sites are providing much needed meals and activities for children.
Parents can find meal sites in their communities by:
- Calling toll free 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-877-8-HAMBRE for Spanish speakers)
- Texting FOODAR to 877 877
Arkansas No Kid Hungry Campaign stakeholders also took the opportunity to thank First Lady Ginger Beebe for her continuing support of child nutrition during her time as Arkansas First Lady. The First Lady has used her platform effectively to increase awareness of Arkansas's need to make sure our children have dependable access to healthy, nutritious food where they live, learn and play. Her participation at Arkansas No Kid Hungry campaign events and her determination to impact child nutrition and wellness have been important in helping Arkansans adopt a more proactive approach to ending child hunger in our state.
In 2009, when the Governor and First Lady made Arkansas one of the first proof of concept states for Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry Campaign, Arkansas led the nation in child food insecurity. Today, Arkansas is a leader in implementing programs that increase participation in school breakfast, school lunch, afterschool meals and summer meal programs. In 2013, Arkansas increased the number of summer meals sites from 583 to 882 and increased the number of meals served by 1.6 million over the previous summer. That was the highest increase achieved by any state in the nation. In 2009, there were 1.6 million meals served in Arkansas. In the summer of 2013, that figure rose to an impressive 4.1 million, but the need remains great.
Governor Beebe has set a goal of increasing summer meals served to kids in 2014 by more than 10 percent (500,000 more meals) and having Summer Meals sites in every county in the state. Arkansas No Kid Hungry campaign stakeholders have accepted the governor's challenge and are working to exceed that goal. No Kid Hungry stakeholders include:
- The Arkansas Governor's office
- Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance (lead partner)
- Arkansas Department of Human Services
- Arkansas Department of Education