In central and southern Arkansas one in five people are food insecure, according to Teresa Henson, Extension specialist-program outreach coordinator for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.
September is Hunger Action Month and the UAPB Cooperative Extension Program is working to help combat hunger in central and southern Arkansas and on the UAPB campus.
“Food insecure Arkansans struggle to provide adequate and nutritious food for themselves and their families,” Henson said. “In some rural areas, one in four children is faced with hunger. These alarming numbers have placed Arkansas second in the nation for food insecurity.” UAPB’s Extension family and consumer sciences educators provide nutritional information and materials to agencies, food pantries and food banks to address hunger in Jefferson, Ashley, and Monroe counties, Henson said.
“The educators provide nutritional lessons that address ways for participants to make their food stretch to the end of the month, ways to prepare healthy meals with the food boxes they receive from pantries or food banks, and how to stock up on kitchen staples like rice, pasta, potatoes, beans (canned or dried), dry milk and oatmeal,” she said. “Those staples can be prepared, and multiple meals can be frozen for their families.” The educators also provide information about SNAP-Ed benefits or WIC for pregnant women, Henson said.
They also provide pantries, food banks, and agencies with low-cost recipes and nutritional handouts to place in food boxes and on display tables for individuals to receive and pick up.
After a 2014 food insecurity survey found that 78 percent of student respondents at UAPB did not have enough food for themselves or their families, the UAPB Collegiate 4-H Lions’ Cabinet Pantry was created, said Teki K. Hunt, director of the UAPB 4-H youth development program.
“Located in the Adair-Greenhouse building, the pantry can be accessed by students, faculty and staff on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month that class is in regular session,” Hunt said.
“Participants will be required to complete an application that includes basic demographic data and current contact information. This contact information is used if there is a recall on products distributed.” In person food and toiletry contributions to the pantry can be made by contacting Hunt at (870) 575-8538 to arrange a date and time to meet at the pantry, she said.
Monetary contributions by check should be made out to the Jefferson County 4-H Foundation with UAPB Pantry on the subject line and mailed to Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service, c/o Pia Woods, 500 S. Idaho St., Pine Bluff, Ark., 71601.
Debbie Archer is with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.