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Food desert in Tuckerman means more work for local food pantry

Updated: Jun. 20, 2021 at 5:32 PM CDT
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TUCKERMAN, Ark. (KAIT) - Food deserts in rural areas are not uncommon in Arkansas or here in Region 8.

The city of Tuckerman has faced this problem for over a year now, ever since their local grocery store closed.

CEO of Every Child Is Ours food pantry Jan Paschal has lived in Jackson County her whole life.

“If you live in a town where there are no civic organizations left, and there’s no grocery store to buy anything, it gets hard,” says Paschal.

Citizens from Tuckerman, Grubbs, Swifton and other small towns travel to Newport to buy groceries.

Here’s the distance between those three towns.

  • From Tuckerman to Newport, 17 minutes.
  • From Grubbs to Newport, 19 minutes.
  • From Swifton to Newport, 26 minutes.

The most affected by this food desert is the elderly population.

Local volunteer and Tuckerman resident Peytina Freer sees the towns struggle every day.

“It’s awful we need a grocery store bad, but I don’t know what to do,” says Freer.

Beverly Bell has worked for the pantry for 10 years.

She says they haven’t seen this much business in all the years she’s worked there.

“There’s been a great rise in applicants come through our doors throughout Jackson County,” says Bell.

Paschal says they’ve gone from serving 500 people to around 1,800 in the last year.

Another problem the pantry faces is room for all the food coming in.

Paschal says they are so full that they are now working with city leaders to raise funds for expansion at the pantry.

“We need to say to everyone, are our people our priority and if they’re not. Who are we?” says Paschal.

As for a solution for the food insecurity within Jackson County, Paschal says something needs to change.

“I would like to see a task force put together by the government to work towards putting grocery stores in every small town in Arkansas,” says Paschal.

Paschal is passionate about Tuckerman and works in non-profit organizations to try and alleviate the problems small towns face.

“I think we have to say that this is the United States of America and if we can’t take care of those people. We need to re-evaluate and be able to do it,” says Paschal.

If you would like to donate or volunteer to the food pantry, click here for more information.

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