JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas got a much needed grant Monday.
Vicki Pillow, director of development for the food bank, said this money will go toward the children.
"The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas has been awarded a $39,000 grant through Feeding America and C & S Wholesale Grocers," Pillow said. "C & S wanted to make the largest impact they could, so they actually chose the 10 food banks with the greatest need that also offered a back pack program. There are 200 food banks in the country that belong to Feeding America and they chose the top 10 with the highest rate of food insecurity. So that means the food bank, while it's wonderful we got this grant, we got it because we have so many people and so many kids at risk of hunger."
Pillow said we are leading the country in food hunger.
"Arkansas has the second highest rate of food insecurity in the country," Pillow said. "That means we are number two of having the most people who are at risk of hunger and just don't know where they're going to find their next meal."
Pillow said a big percentage of those hungry stomachs are children.
"Arkansas is consistently in the top 10 states which had the highest rate of food insecurity for children specifically," Pillow said. "So, we always have a high number of children that need emergency food assistance. We just have so many families. You might have two parents who are working minimum wage jobs who have children and it's hard for them to make ends meet. We also have grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. We even have single parents. There are just a lot of people struggling to make ends meet and so they need the emergency food assistance that we provide."
The money from this grant is going to help many of kids.
"Through this grant specifically we will be able to expand the back pack program," Pillow said. "We will be able to add 135 children to the program because of this grant. We also have a new model program we are starting that businesses, organizations and churches that want to sponsor 20 children from a school can. We can do that on a year by year basis to make sure we can get some more children on the program."
There are 830 children currently in the backpack program.
Pillow said she is sure every school in their 12 county coverage area has children who could use the back pack program.
The problem is sponsorship for a child.
"The backpack program is a sponsored program that costs $150 per year for a child to have a backpack full of food for every weekend of the school year," Pillow said. "We want to make sure that when we put a child on the backpack program, we know where that sponsorship is coming the next year and the next year. So that we're not putting a child on the program this year and then next year we don't have the money for that child."
Pillow said some children are on the program for as long as eight years.
"The numbers of childhood insecurity are staggering," Pillow said. "Just visualize a child going home and not having anything to eat that night. What's more terrible than a parent not being able to think of where am I going to get a meal for my child tonight."
Last year, the food bank distributed 5.8 million pounds of food which equals 4.8 million meals.
Pillow said they needed an additional 7.2 million meals to meet the need in Region 8.
For more information, call the food bank at (870) 932-3663 or (870) 932-FOOD.
Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.