Summer break equals hunger for children across the River Valley

For kids who depend on college breakfast and lunch packages, summer time not solely means a break from college but in addition a break from constant meals. 

The River Valley Regional Meals Financial institution and Antioch for Youth and Household in Fort Smith have partnered to fill within the hole with the Summer season Picnic Basket for Youngsters program. 

The Summer season Picnic Basket for Youngsters program was made doable by way of a grant from Feeding America. This system was designed to assist college students attending eight elementary colleges with the best ranges of meals insecurity in Fort Smith.

Arkansas ranked fourth highest within the nation for baby meals insecurity in 2020, in line with Feeding America, the biggest home starvation aid group. A 2019 examine performed by the City Institute discovered that one in 4 youngsters was meals insecure in Sebastian County.

Meals insecurity refers back to the lack of entry to sufficient meals and the restricted or unsure availability of nutritionally ample meals for a wholesome, lively way of life, as outlined by the U.S. Division of Agriculture.

Justin Bates, advertising and marketing and improvement director on the River Valley Regional Meals Financial institution, estimated that 2,000 households had been served on June 26 through the second of three summer time distributions.

Households acquired frozen rooster, containers of cereal, contemporary vegetables and fruit and different requirements for nutritious meals. 

“If anyone comes right here they usually want groceries or no matter, we bought it … It is wholesome meals,” Fred Perkins, Antioch volunteer, mentioned as he gestured in direction of pallets of rice and different dry items. 

Stephanie Thornton, who first started volunteering with Antioch final yr for its Thanksgiving dinner distribution, mentioned that the Household Picnic occasion was simply as rewarding. 

“I consider this as loads like that. Those who would possibly do with out are in a position to get nourishment for his or her kiddos,” Thornton mentioned. 

Recipients expressed gratefulness of the work of Antioch and the meals financial institution.  

“I bought a message from one of many different meals financial institution folks telling me to return and get meals as a result of I have been within the hospital. I missed every week’s price of labor … Antioch is nice,” Joyce Ivy, a Barling resident, mentioned.  

Volunteers pack fresh vegetables to hand out, Saturday, June 26, during the first of three summer months food distributions by the Antioch for Youth & Family Child Summer Feeding Program at the Arkansas River Valley Food Bank, 1617 Zero St., in Fort Smith.

“If folks did not give their time, and if companies did not donate, we couldn’t have achieved this,” Ken Kupchick, advertising and marketing director for Antioch, mentioned. 

The third and closing distribution in this system will probably be held in July. 

Households can obtain further help this summer time by way of the 2021 Summer season Meals Program with Fort Smith Public Faculties. 

Free breakfast and lunch is obtainable for all youngsters as much as 18 years previous by way of July 30. Meals are provided Monday by way of Friday, aside from July 5.

For extra data and a listing of meal instances and areas, go to FSPS 2021 Summer season Meals Program. 

Catherine Nolte is a corps member with Report for America, a nationwide service program that locations journalists into native newsrooms. She might be reached at

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