CADC to distribute food this week

By Wayne Bryan Published April 15, 2012 at 2:41 a.m.
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— While news reports carry stories of an improving economy, hunger remains an everyday problem for many in Arkansas.

According to the 2011 American Community Survey published by the U.S. CensusBureau, “one in six Arkansans struggles with making ends meet and providing enough food for their family.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture report last year listed Arkansas as ranking third in the nation for the greatest incidences of food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined as someone not being sure when his next meal will be or from where it will come.

In an effort to help, the Central Arkansas Development Council, a nonprofit community-action agency, regularly distributes USDA commodities. The organization will make the food available in Saline County on Tuesday and Wednesday and in Clark and Hot Spring counties on Thursday and Friday.

“This is the quarterly distribution of commodities,” said Evelyn Reed of the CADC office in Benton. “There is also a monthly food program for those over 60.”

To be eligible for the quarterly food program, the income of the households receiving the food must be less than 130 percent of the poverty guidelines established by the federal government. Based on those guidelines, one person must make less than $14,157 per year. For each additional family member, the income level increases by $4,966, according to a release from the CADC. That means a family of four must have an income under $29,055 to qualify for the food program.

“This helps stretch out the family’s food budget,” said Reed, who has worked with the CADC for 34 years. “It is especially important for older residents. They have to sometimes make the choice between food or medicines.”

Reed said the items given out by the CADC are nonperishable.

“There are cans of vegetables such as corn, beans or spinach; canned fruits; canned tomato soup; boxes of cereal; juices like apple or grapefruit; and canned chicken or beef stew,” she said. “This time we have been told we will have dried plums to distribute.”

Reed said people wanting to take part in the food program can come to one of the distribution centers and present identification before they pick up the food sacks.

“We encourage people to come by ahead of time, register and get in our computer system, but they can come by the first day of the distribution,” she said.

The food parcels will be available in Saline County from 9-11:30 a.m., then from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the Benton Senior Activity Center, 210 Jefferson St., and at the Bryant Senior Activity Center at The Center at Bishop Park, 6401 Boone Road.

Reed said around 80 households in Bryant received the food parcels in January, and 216 picked up food in Benton.

“Saline County used to have the largest number of families using the program, but that number has been falling in the last couple of years,” Reed said. “But the number of elderly individuals using the monthly food program has increased in Saline County.”

Reed said the number of households that obtain food from the quarterly distribution has risen over the past couple of years in Clark and Hot Spring counties.

“The numbers have gone up in Malvern,” she said. “The community center there is very active, and it seems more people are in need.”

Reed said 528 households received food in Malvern during the January distribution.

The commodities will be given out in Hot Spring County from 8-11 a.m. and noon to 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday at the Malvern Community Center, 1800 W. Moline St.

In January, 216 families received food parcels in Arkadelphia. The next distribution will be from 8:30-11 a.m., then from 12:30-2 p.m. Thursday and Friday at the Arkadelphia Senior Activity Center, 1305 N. 10th St.

In Gurdon, the distribution will be at the Gurdon Senior Activity Center, 410 E. Main St., from 8:30-11 a.m., then from noon to 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Reed said 144 households were given parcels in January.

Reed said the food arrives in large trucks a couple of days before the distribution and a variety of items are sacked by volunteers. In all, the CADC operates the commodities distribution program in 12 counties in central Arkansas. Reed said that in January, more than 2,000 volunteers helped hand out food sacks to 6,400 households, estimated to help nearly 20,000 residents in the area.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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