PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Over the past year, Mission Outreach of Paragould has not only seen an increase in shelter residents but also the number of meals they serve year round.
Nearly 57,000 meals have been served up since this time last year but it's during the summer that their demographics change up and their shelves go bare.
As food prep begins for suppertime at Mission Outreach, it becomes obvious just how much it takes to feed the needy.
"We might go through two cases of canned vegetables for one meal," Jeremy Biggs with Mission Outreach told Region 8 News.
For a full-time soup kitchen that serves up three meals a day year round, that adds up quickly.
"Over the last couple of months we've seen it, on average, grow to about 105 meals for dinner time every night," Biggs said.
During the spring, Mission Outreach serves, on average, under 4,500 meals a month. Those numbers increase when summer comes along.
"With children being out of school, we have more children coming in to eat with us and we'll go from about 4,200 meals a month to about 5,000 meals a month," Biggs said.
All of the school districts in Greene County have summer feeding programs but Biggs explained they still see many children walk to the Mission for supper.
"They lack transportation so in most cases, it's a lot easier for children to walk to us than it is to the school," he explained.
Biggs said the Mission feeds anywhere from 25-30 more children a day during the summer months.
However as the need increases, donations decrease.
A trash can shows just how many canned foods it took to put together chili for supper.
"Our shelves usually begin to look bare during the summer months. Everybody's out of town, everyone's got other plans," Biggs said.
With donations few and far between and a 5% increase Mission Outreach has had in meals served since last year, it can force the Mission to purchase groceries to fill the need.
"In Greene County, there are over 2,800 hungry children on a daily basis and in Northeast Arkansas, it just grows dramatically," Biggs said. "The need is always there and all you have to do is purchase a couple extra canned goods, a couple extra jars of peanut butter and you are making a difference in one of your neighbors lives."
You can drop off food any time at Mission Outreach. Biggs said someone is always on hand at the front office to accept donations, day or night.
For a list of the Mission's current needs, head to their website and click on their "wish list".