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story.lead_photo.caption Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. greets children after a news conference for the “Be Mighty Little Rock” initiative at Stephens Elementary School in Little Rock on Wednesday. - Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun

Little Rock leaders are calling on community groups, churches and other organizations to help provide locations where children can get the nutrition they need to "be mighty."

That's the name of a citywide campaign to connect kids and teens in need to after-school, weekend and summer meal programs, officials said Wednesday.

"Hunger is an issue in our city, and it's an issue that doesn't stop at the end of the school day," Ward 3 City Director and Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance Executive Director Kathy Webb said. "After-school and summer meals ensure that our kids get the healthy meals they need to be mighty."

Little Rock was one of six U.S. cities selected in August for a $139,500 grant to bolster its food programs. The funding helps the city to partner with the Central Arkansas Library System and local nonprofit organizations to get food outside of school hours to children who are eligible for free and reduced-cost lunches.

Federal programs provide food, but officials sometimes struggle to get parents and children to facilities where they can receive those meals. The aim of the grant from the National League of Cities and the Food Research and Action Center is to help cities meet kids where they are. For instance, the funding can help create meal sites at locations where enrichment programs such as cooking classes, games, and reading or exercise programs are also offered to children.

"We want to make certain that we have those food resources so they can be healthy, so they can be of sound mind, and make certain that they can be the most productive student that they can be," Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said at an event Wednesday announcing the program's start.

A map and information about meal programs for kids around Little Rock.
A map and information about meal programs for kids around Little Rock.

Little Rock currently has 30 feeding sites that offer meals and snacks. Those include schools, community centers, libraries and apartment complexes. The program's leaders hope more groups will step up to become sites offering food to needy children. The deadline to apply to become a feeding site is April 30.

About one in four children in Little Rock are food insecure, Webb said.

Those interested in becoming a meal site can attend an information session at 2 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children's Library, 4800 W. 10th St., said Katharine DeRossette, project coordinator of the Be Mighty initiative.

The standards for feeding sites are set by the state Department of Human Services. Funding for the food is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nonprofits that participate are eligible for USDA reimbursement.

The number of Little Rock sites where children are fed through USDA-funded programs has decreased by about a dozen in the past two years, according to information provided by the Human Services Department. This could be due to sites consolidating because of low attendance or due to programs shifting to Department of Education food programs, DHS spokesman Marci Manley said in an email.

DeRossette can be reached at (501) 918-3016 or kderossette@cals.org.

Metro on 02/14/2019

Print Headline: Little Rock seeks groups' aid in kid-feeding effort

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Comments

  • mrcharles
    February 14, 2019 at 8:05 a.m.

    Should not these kids pull themselves up by their bootstraps?
    If we feed them, would jesus approve? And how can we punish their parents if we act civilized to children?
    Hard to satisfy what some say jesus would do & at the same time satisfy a red state.

  • BuffaloGirl
    February 14, 2019 at 8:28 a.m.

    What in the world is going on here? Hungry children should absolutely be fed but where are their parents? These kids qualify for meals when at school, but do we want to free the parents of their responsibility to provide for them at other times?

  • GeneralMac
    February 14, 2019 at 9:11 a.m.

    A question......do the parents receive mor food stamps in summer when their kids are not getting FREE meals in school?

    They should !

    If they are receiving the full amount in summer, it should be less when school is on as they then are "double dipping"

    Getting full food stamps PLUS their kids getting FREE meals 5 days a week.

    Either increase the family's food stamps in summer or decrease the amount during the school year.

    Whiche ver is FAIR and does not result in parents double dipping.

  • Foghorn
    February 14, 2019 at 9:42 a.m.

    Drug or alcohol-addled parents and absent parents are not going to suddenly step up. Just get the kids fed and work on ways to incentivize people who can’t afford to care for them, to have fewer children. At least don’t pay them to have more. Make birth control free and available at every street corner, in every school; preferably the long term kind. Stop requiring unmarried men to pay child support and women will stop having children with them.

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