JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The need for more food banks and food donations is high in Northeast Arkansas.
According to the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, every week 5,000 people flock to food banks and soup kitchens around the area. More food is now being allocated to food pantries across the area to meet the high demand.
Newport Regional Food Bank has been open for more than a year and is one of the newer pantries opened because of the great need.
"Some of the need will surprise you," Brad Elrod, Newport Regional Food Bank, said. "It's individuals you might not realize, but there is a huge hunger gap here in Northeast Arkansas."
He says the pantry opened after the Wal-Mart Supercenter came in to Newport. Wal-Mart along with the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas realized the Jackson county area could really benefit from a food pantry.
Elrod said the pantry is needed because even those with jobs sometimes don't have enough to make ends meet. "You can either afford to live there or you can't afford to leave there, and unfortunately there is not a lot of industry, and there are just not a lot of jobs that are available out in those parts," Elrod said.
Food drives like Fill the Food Bank help fill the shelves. Elrod said the food drive is great because they don't get as many can donations as they need. "[It] fills that need and gap because this is stuff we can keep on our shelves for a while," Elrod said.
Volunteers also braved the cold to help make a difference in the community. Jessica Baker and her co-workers volunteered because she said it was the least they could do.
"I can't imagine not being able to provide for my family for food, and so this little bit of time we are able to give could really impact somebody," Jessica Baker said.
Even students from Nettleton came out to help. "We really have seen how much the food bank can help out the community, and we know that a lot of children are in need at our school specifically," Tabitha Hudspeth, 12th grader at Nettleton High School, said.
In just 24 hours the students were able to collect more than 1,100 cans and raise $474 to give to Fill the Food Bank.
Hudspeth encourages everyone to donate because everything counts. "We all just donated a few items, but all of us together is what made our total so high," Hudspeth said.
Elrod agreed and said just one can will help. "If you want to make a difference but don't feel like you can make a dramatic difference, well that's a great entry level way to do it," Elrod said.