Children are going hungry - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Children are going hungry

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JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)-Do you know what it's like to go to bed hungry?

Director of Development for the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, Vicki Pillow, says there are hundreds of children in Region 8 who know exactly what that feels like.

Pillow says this is where their "Backpack Program" comes in.

"The Backpack Program allows children at risk of hunger to be able to take home a backpack full of food every Friday or the day before a school holiday," Pillow said. "So they will for sure have something to eat over the weekend because that's not always the case."

The food bank delivers backpacks to Region 8 schools once a month.

They recently got a grant from the BNSF Railway Foundation for $5,000 to benefit the program.

"The grant funds will be used to acquire nutritious food," Pillow said. "To distribute to children at risk of hunger in Northeast Arkansas."

Despite the additional funds, Pillow says there's still a huge need in the area.

"We used to actually be 1st in child hunger and now we're not. We're not 1st anymore. We're 9th in the country, now. Which is still not great, but it's better than we were."

Pillow says they are currently giving backpacks to 520 children.

"We serve 5,100 individuals at risk of hunger each week in Northeast Arkansas," she said. "25% of those individuals served are children under the age of 18."

Pillow says Arkansas is tied with Mississippi as the state with the highest rate of food insecurity in the country.

"I think a lot of people still don't realize that 1 in 5 Arkansans are struggling with hunger," Pillow said. "We appreciate support from the community. You can actually sponsor a child in the backpack program."

Pillow says for $150 you can feed a child for an entire school year.

"We actually had a story that broke our hearts," Pillow said. "We found out that a little boy went to Santa and used his time on Santa's lap to ask for food. And it doesn't get much more basic than that. He wanted to ask Santa to make sure he had food to eat."

The Food Bank is currently delivering backpacks to Nettleton, Forrest City, Tuckerman, Swifton, Monette, Leachville, Marmaduke, Lynn and Strawberry school systems.

Child friendly items the food bank is in need of for the "Backpack Program" are pop top fruits, soups, and meals like ravioli. Also shelf stable meals like peanut butter crackers, pudding cups, granola bars, microwavable oatmeal and vegetables, trail mix, boxes of crackers that come in sleeves (like saltines), snack pack size boxes of cereal and 100% fruit juice boxes.

For more information about the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, log onto this website.

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