SPRINGDALE -- The winter weather has closed the offices, warehouses and dining rooms of agencies regularly feeding the hungry in Northwest Arkansas.
Ice coated the roads, so staff and volunteers couldn't get to their jobs or out to houses to deliver.
But organizers insist they can help families in critical need of food.
Lori Proud, director of the city's Senior Center, was answering phones Tuesday. She was at home with her family but faithfully answered every call "in case somebody needs services, in case somebody needs a meal," she said.
"We will get them a meal, if they need a meal," Proud said.
Damon Donnell, director of student services for Springdale Public Schools, said he personally has opened the district's new Treehouse Pantry for a few hours each day school is closed. Donnell said he served two families Tuesday from the pantry, and he also delivered two bags of groceries to families in critical need that did not have a way to get to the pantry.
The deliveries went to families of five people and seven people, he said.
Donnell said he put his pickup in four-wheel drive, but he still hit parts of the roads that were quite slick.
"It's so difficult when we can't foresee things like this," said Joanna Davis, director of congregational care at First United Methodist Church in Springdale. "But when our volunteers were not able to get there, we had no choice but to be closed."
Several of the organizations expected to send their clients home with extra food Monday, but the storm surprised the community by moving in overnight Sunday.
The Springdale School District distributed 30,000 snack packs in the first semester of this school year, Donnell said. Snack packs are provided every Friday for children in need to ensure they have food over the weekend. The snack pack includes things like peanut butter crackers, soup and cereal.
Many students qualify for free or reduced prices on breakfasts and lunches, which the schools serve when in session.
The school staff typically will provide snack packs if they can determine schools will be closed the next day. That didn't happen with this storm, but Donnell said those students enrolled in the program will receive snack packs on the first day the schools reopen.
The Methodist church serves hot lunches each Wednesday, Davis reported. The church serves more than 125 people each week, or 250 in the summer, when schools are on vacation, she said.
The church also opens its Bread of Life food pantry and His Helping Hands clothes closet each Wednesday and Thursday. But those same volunteers each week leave a few bags of staple foods -- as well as some warm socks and sleeping bags this time of year -- in the church office in case someone comes looking for help, Davis said.
"So we are able to help the most serious cases," she said.
The Springdale Senior Center serves 75 to 150 hot meals a day from the commercial kitchen at its location on Park Street, Proud said. The staff also makes about 160 meals for Meals on Wheels clients. Volunteers deliver them each day.
Proud said most of the seniors in the program should have frozen meals in their freezers. The program delivers a frozen meal -- in addition to the daily meal -- every Thursday.
The center had planned to make and deliver additional freezer meals Monday, Proud said.
"Most people do have food," she said. "But it might be soup, not necessarily the things we want to eat."
"We all have food in our homes we don't want to eat," Donnell agreed.
Donnell said the food from the school district's pantry isn't fancy. He packed peanut butter, jelly and some bread.
"That will get them through," he said.
The Northwest Arkansas Food Bank distributed about 11.75 million meals in 2022, much of this to nonprofit agencies directly serving the community, said Casey Cowan, director of client services for the food bank. The food bank also offers mobile food pantries in outlying towns and a supermarket-style food pantry, Feed Rogers.
All of the food bank's programs were sidelined by the storm, Cowan said. She said community organizers for food pantries and meal programs did not request extra helpings in advance of the storm.
"This weather just hit us so badly, we don't always have a good backup plan," Cowan said.