JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas just got some much needed help, with the ArkansasCommunity Foundation rewarding the organization with a grant totaling $1,000.
Executive Director for the Food Bank of NortheastArkansas, Christie Jordan, says this money will be used for the backpackprogram in the Forrest City School District. "When we look at our povertypopulation," Jordan said. "St. Francis County has a highconcentration of families living in poverty and that's one of the locationsthat we've chosen to influence childhood hunger through our backpack program,trying to serve children in that area. We currently serve 80 kids in theForrest City Elementary Schools."
Jordan says they started the backpack program severalyears ago and it's proven to be very effective. "We've been doing thebackpack program in Northeast Arkansas in a number of schools for severalyears," Jordan said. "We currently serve over 500 children inNortheast Arkansas. The backpack program is a great way to send food homespecifically for children. We would love to serve more children through this method;however, it is fairly costly for us to serve the children. We buy productsspecifically geared towards children. Things that they like to eat, but thatalso have good nutritional value. And so, it costs us about $150 per child perschool year to serve children through the backpack program."
Jordan says what makes this program so special is theattention it gives to children. "The backpack program is special becauseit focuses specifically on children who are at risk of hunger," Jordansaid. "We have food pantries located in all twelve counties that we servein Northeast Arkansas and there are lots of families with children that accessthose food pantries, but this is a specific way we're targeting children who atthat particular school that their school teachers and counselors feel that theyare at specific risk and need help at home."
Jordan says the children currently on the backpackprogram don't see the three meals a day that other children do.
Superintendent of the Forrest City School District,Dr. Jerry Woods, says they're thrilled the backpack program is available totheir students in need and is going to continue. "This is awonderful opportunity for our students and their families," Woods said."We're excited we'll be able to continue this at a higher level. We feelfortunate to be a recipient at this time. This will be a great benefit to ourstudents and families."
Jordan says there's a list of people just waiting toget on. "We get calls every month, about schools being interested inbecoming a role in our backpack program. And right now, just from a budgetarystandpoint, we feel we have taken on all that we can. Again, we would love todo more if we had more funds available to support the backpack program."
If you would like to sponsor a child, or learn moreabout the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, call 932-3663 or 932-FOOD. You can also log onto their website.