Monette food pantry, backpacks fill needs, stomachs

MONETTE, AR (KAIT) - The new Monette food bank program serves the towns of Leachville, Monette, and Black Oak.

One big part of the food bank is the backpack program that provides main food staples to schoolchildren. The B.I.B.L.E., or Buffalo Island Better Living Experience food bank program, falls under the wings of the Monette housing authority.

Barbara Suber and volunteer Karen Wallace were packing backpacks for students when I caught up with them in Monette.

Suber, "We try to pack enough snacks for Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday to do until they can get back to school for breakfast on Monday."

Dr. Kima Stewart the principal at Buffalo Island Central West Elementary said the backpack program grew out of her noticing kids coming to school hungry during summer school a couple of years ago.

Stewart, "It had not been a problem that we had been made aware of or noticed in any way in our community in the past until that time." Dr. Stewart noticed that as the economy declined the need and hunger increased.

Barbara Suder, who directs the Monette Housing Authority has been the anchor for gathering donations, writing grants and getting a storage building built on MHA property.

Currently 30 backpacks are sent home on Fridays. Local volunteers come in on Thursday to fill and sort the backpacks. Each has a number to insure that it goes home with the same child. The empty backpacks are returned on Monday.

Suder pulled crackers, peanut butter, canned meats and other items from the shelves.

Suder, "99 percent of the items that go in the backpacks come from the Rice Depot out of Little Rock and we get one shipment a month."

If they have to buy locally they are able to purchase at a discount from the local Farmers Market grocery store in Monette. However they have really gotten a break when it comes to using funds.

So far the Monette Housing Authority has not had to tap into their grant money except to build their building. All the food on the shelves and what's going into the backpacks has been paid for basically, by donations.

The Monette Church of Christ gave the program a 15 Hundred dollar grant for food. The church was considering making a food bank but that plan fell through so the money was passed on.

Suber, "So far we are still spending on that first 15 Hundred dollars for food."

This spring, property next to the building will be tilled by local farmers for a garden.  The small metal building sits on about an acre. One tilled they will be able to offer those in need and seniors from the housing area fresh vegetables and fruits that are home grown.

Many farmers and hunters have offered game and meat so the biggest need now is for a freezer to either be donated or sold to the organization at discount.

Suber says besides backpacks they can assist families in need of food.

"We have enough on hand to serve 10 to 12 families for a week." Suber also says the plan to grow to serve more people in the Buffalo Island area.

"We still have room to add more shelving if we need to, but right now we are where we need to be just getting started."

To make a donation you can call Barbara Suber at 870-486-5487 or go by the Monette Housing Authority office on Williams street or you can e-mail her at

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