No Kid Hungry Arkansas: A Partnership
In 2009, Arkansas ranked #1 in the nation in childhood hunger. Share Our Strength, a national non-profit organization dedicated to alleviating childhood hunger in America, chose Arkansas as a proof of concept state in which to execute their strategy of reducing childhood hunger by:
- Improving access to public and private nutrition programs that provide food to families and their children in need
- Strengthening community resources for getting healthy food to children and families
- Improving awareness about available programs
- Educating families about healthy and affordable food choices that will stretch their food budgets
In 2010, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and Share Our Strength joined together with Governor Mike Beebe and First Lady Ginger Beebe in launching the Arkansas No Kid Hungry campaign. With generous support from corporate partners Weight Watchers, Tyson Foods, and the Midwest Dairy Council, the Arkansas No Kid Hungry campaign has become a successful public-private partnership working to end childhood hunger in Arkansas.
Today, according to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap 2016 report, Arkansas (with 26.3 percent) ranks 5th behind Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona and Alabama in childhood food insecurity. Although we are making inroads into turning the tide on childhood hunger— going from 2nd to 5th nationally— it is a stubborn, widespread issue. Despite the fact that more than 2.4 million summer meals were served to Arkansas children at risk of hunger in 2015 alone, still there are children in Arkansas who do not get enough to eat when school is out. Although providing grants and technical support to more than 450 schools that have chosen to adopt Breakfast-After-the-Bell programs has helped connect many thousands more kids every day with a nutritious breakfast, there are still too many schools allowing barriers such as transportation and cafeteria stigma to stand between their students and a nutritious breakfast. Even though more than 13,600 families have learned to shop smarter and cook healthier through Cooking Matters and Cooking Matters at the Store nutrition education programs, there are many thousands of families we still need to reach, and we will.
The comprehensive strategy of surrounding children with nutritious food where they live, learn and play allows us to focus resources where they can have the greatest effect, and it’s making a difference in the lives of Arkansas children.
A Comprehensive Campaign
The programs of the No Kid Hungry Arkansas Campaign focus on many aspects of the health and nutrition of children and families:
Hungry children have serious difficulty learning. Our Breakfast Team works with Arkansas school districts and individual schools across the state to improve the participation rates of their school breakfast programs by introducing alternative breakfast delivery models like Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab & Go and Second Chance breakfast.
AfterSchool Meals Program
Our Out of School team helps churches, schools, civic groups, boys and girls clubs and other organizations connect with the resources they need to provide meals to children in their communities when school is not in session. Through additional capacity building grants from Share Our Strength, we help sponsors develop educational enrichment aspects of their programs and improve their capacity to serve more children.
Summer Meals Program
Children are especially vulnerable to food insecurity in the summer months. Family budgets are tight, parents are working and nutrition often takes a back seat. Our Out of School team helps identify schools and other non-profit organizations that want to feed children and assists them in developing sustainable programs that provide meals to children in safe, supervised locations.
Parents and care givers can find a summer meals site in their communities by:
- Going to the official USDA Summer Meals interactive map that will show the names, locations and serving times of Summer Meals sites all over Arkansas and the nation.
- Calling 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (a live operator will ask for your address and give you a list of sites.)
- Texting FOOD to 877 877 (you will be asked for your zip code and receive a list of sites in your area.)
Many people with low incomes tell us they would prefer cooking healthy, nutritious meals at home, but they don’t always know what to buy or how to prepare it. Cooking Matters is a series of 6-week signature courses that teach the skills individuals, teens and families need to make economical, healthy food choices to stretch their food budget. During class, participants practice preparing delicious, low cost, nutritious meals from the Cooking Matters cookbook, as well as learn important nutrition information.
Cooking Matters at the Store
Making healthy food choices starts at the grocery store. Cooking Matters at the Store is a free guided grocery store tour that teaches people on tight food budgets how to read food nutrition labels, understand bulk purchasing, and make informed decisions about the food they buy. These hands-on tours also help participants gain the confidence they need to take more active roles in creating better eating habits for themselves and their families.
The Facts About Child Hunger in Arkansas
According to a recent national report, more than 185,600 children in Arkansas are at risk of hunger and not getting the food they need to lead healthy, active lives. Feeding America, Map The Meal Gap; 2016
More than 184,000 Arkansas children (26%) live in poverty. Kids Count Data Center, 2014
Arkansas ranks 9th in the nation in food hardship. Eighteen percent (18%) of families in Arkansas with children struggled to afford enough food for themselves and their families in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. FRAC Food Hardship Report, 2016