Grant relieves some of the hunger

Food Bank backpacks

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Children's tummies won't be rumbling thanks to a grant from a "red nose" helper, officials said Tuesday.

The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas received a grant for nearly $11,000 for their Backpack Program.

The money came from an organization called Red Nose Day Fund.

With the help of celebrities and entertainment, the group raises money to end child poverty and support programs that keep kids safe, healthy and educated.

The Food Bank of NEA got on their radar and the grant money was the result.

Vicki Pillow, Director of Development for the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, said this money will help keep kids fed.

"This will allow us to acquire food to put into our backpack program," Pillow said. "This is going to allow us to help so many children at risk of hunger in our service area."

Pillow said there is a huge need in Region 8.

"Arkansas is second in the nation in food insecurity," Pillow said. "We've made a little bit of headway. But second lowest out of 50 is still not great. The need is still huge. 27% of the people that utilize our food pantries and backpack programs are children at risk of hunger."

The backpack program ensures that children stay fed when they're not at school.

"In our service area, one out of four children are at risk of hunger," Pillow said. "These kids don't know if they're going to have food for the weekend. The backpack program gives them a backpack of food to take home for Saturday and Sunday. They have three meals a day for each day. And that just helps them have their food so they can come back to school on Monday ready to learn with the rest of the kids."

Pillow said the program is anonymous.

"We provide the backpacks to the schools," Pillow said. "We don't know the children's names. Only the school knows their name so it's completely secure for the children."

Pillow said once a child is selected for the program, they get to stay on it until they don't need it anymore.

"We have always been very careful to increase the number of children on the backpack program," Pillow said. "Because we want to make sure if a child comes in at a young age and needs that backpack through their whole school term, then we want to make sure they have that."

The Food Bank of NEA currently has 1,178 children on the backpack program in Region 8.

This doesn't include the many kids waiting to get on.

"We know there are other schools that have children who could use the backpack program," Pillow said. "We've started a new program this year where civic organizations, businesses and churches are stepping forward to help with the backpack program because collaboration is the key to making everything work."

You can feed a child for a year with only $150.

To sponsor a child or for more information, contact the Food Bank of NEA at (870) 932-3663 or 932-FOOD.

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