The Arkansas Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education, provides free summer meals to Arkansas children in need.
According to the 2011 Kids Count Data Book provided by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, "Over a quarter of all children in Arkansas live in poverty, which contributes to the state being ranked 47th in the nation for overall child well-being," stated the official site.
Local families have responded well to the program.
"I don’t know what I would have done without these meals. It’s hard to keep up with the cost of food. I’m a single mom and have two kids. It’s definitely a blessing," said Theresa Coleman, a Conway mother.
Coleman’s struggle is not uncommon. According to the Arkansas Department of Education, there are approximately 15,954 students in Faulkner County currently receiving free or reduced lunches at school. This program is housed under the National School Lunch Program which was established under the National School Lunch Act, ‘signed by President Harry Truman in 1946," stated the ADE website.
The program, fully funded by federal monies provides, meals, training, and technical assistance to area schools, public, and nonprofit organizations in Arkansas.
The Summer Food Service Program provides food for children eighteen years old and under as well as people up to twenty-one years old who participate in state education programs for mentally and physically disabled individuals.
The average cost per meal is about two dollars for each child within this program, but not all parents can afford even the slightest bit of cost.
"I was laid off from my job a few months ago and I haven’t been able to find employment since. During the school year, my kids are okay and can eat, but without this program I’m not sure how they would have got food. It’s a struggle to keep a roof over our heads, and most days I have to decide between eating and shelter," said an anonymous Conway community member.
Becoming an official facilitator of the program is relatively simple. To begin, the organization must be a "public school food authority, a public/nonprofit private residential summer camp, units of a local, city, county, tribal, or state government, a public or private university that participates in the National Youth Sports Program, or a private nonprofit (501[c])" stated the ADHS website.
Following the prescreen eligibility questions, sponsors attend a training and secure a location for food administration.
For more information visit dhs.arkansas.gov