By Jenifer Hamel, CM AmeriCorps Direct Member


As an AmeriCorps member with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, I’m tasked with teaching classes on how to cook and shop for healthy foods on a budget, and I recently completed my first course at Phoenix Recovery Center in Little Rock. Phoenix House is an independent living environment for women on the path of recovery from alcohol and substance abuse. While there, the residents have access to beneficial resources such as GED and WAGE prep, CRC certificates, recovery meetings, employment opportunities, and life skills classes with community partners.

There are many things I could reflect on from this course, but I keep coming back to some conversations that occurred while some women were answering the initial survey questions. Consider this seemingly simple question, “How many members in your household?” Not so straightforward if you’ve recently been released from prison. Do you count where you were living prior to incarceration? What if you can’t or won’t return to that home? What if your children were taken away from you, but you’re fighting to regain custody? Also, how do you answer, “What foods do you eat most often?” In prison, the women ate whatever was served, when they arrived at Phoenix House, they were given donated food. What’s the best answer when you have no choice about what you eat? 

Food is more than just fuel for our bodies, it soothes our emotions, and triggers memories. So, it wasn’t uncommon for a recipe to spark a recollection about a long-ago meal that someone’s momma made and/or one they’d made for their own kids. A couple of times, participants encountered new foods, like peanut sauce, flavored sparking water, and romaine lettuce. Eating fruit was difficult for a few of the women because they were missing numerous teeth. A consequence of poverty is the lack of preventive dental care. Cavities aren’t filled, instead decayed teeth are pulled. Smoothies were a successful substitute to eating fruit!

Contact Phoenix Recovery Center for Women at 501-412-6224 if you are interested in donating women’s clothing, food, household items, and/or bedding. There are two other locations for men, one in Conway, and one in Springdale.