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Arkansas Grants to Help Address Food Insecurity in Pulaski County

WOODBRIDGE, NEW JERSEY / USA - March 28, 2020: Dried and shelf stable food items are stored in a residential pantry, in preparation for potential Coronavirus quarantine in this illustrative editorial image.
Erin Cadigan/Erin Cadigan - stock.adobe.com
In Arkansas, nearly 500,000 people face food insecurity, with almost 150,000 of them children, according to Feeding America.

A new initiative in Arkansas' most populous county focuses on increasing healthy options at food pantries to help families experiencing challenges as a result of the pandemic and rising prices due to inflation.

Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance has received $500,000 from Pulaski County to create hunger gardens, purchase food, and improve or establish food-delivery programs for seniors and homebound residents.

Jessica Chapman, membership manager for the Alliance, said collaborating with food pantries is important. Pantries have faced major challenges during COVID-19 with a big increase in families experiencing food insecurity.

"With inflation, it's just gonna get worse," Chapman projected. "I know that with some of the pantries I've talked to, their funding isn't increasing, but the price of goods is going up. It's a lot of pressure on the pantries, and I'm glad we have this funding to be able to help them, and then therefore help the community."

The new initiative is an expansion of a $100,000 pilot run in Pulaski County last year, which was able to serve nearly 17,000 residents. Food pantries serving Pulaski County can apply for funding now through June 17 at arhungeralliance.org/grants. Awarded organizations will be announced on July 18.

Chapman added the funding for home-delivery programs will be key for people experiencing transportation challenges, such as older adults and homebound residents. With more resources, agencies and organizations could buy a vehicle of their own.

"A lot of pantries, whenever they have a delivery program, it's all volunteer-based," Chapman pointed out. "It's really hard to get a delivery program established because people are using their own vehicles, or they're not available to drive all the time and be consistent with their schedule."

Also through the initiative, organizations can apply for funding to establish or expand a hunger garden. Chapman added they can use the funding to finance purchasing items such as drip tape, fertilizer, compost or gardening tools.

Emily Scott is a reporter and producer in Philadelphia. She previously worked at WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station and is a 2018 graduate of Temple University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.