LITTLE ROCK, AR – It’s hard to believe and something we don’t want to think about, but there are 85,000 (that’s one in four) Arkansas kids that are food insecure.
In Pulaski County, the number of kids who do not know where their next meal is coming from is about 21,000.
And while we rank 7th as a state for child food insecurity, it’s better than past years where we were number one.
With the help of the Arkansas Food Bank and schools making healthier changes to menus, these children are eating better.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, says Linda Parker, who comes in early to prepare healthy meals for children at Little Scholars in Little Rock.
What do the kids think?, we ask her.
“A lot of them tell me Ms. Linda it’s off the chain,” she adds.
The owner of Little Scholars, Ed Sipe, says that’s what he and his wife set out to do 25 years ago, give kids a good quality education and good quality meals.
“Egg fritatta this morning. We have catfish every week or so. We have good quality beef, pork chops,” he says.
To go a step farther, Sipe teamed up with the Arkansas Food Bank to get away from processed foods to fresh fruits and veggies. The children help plant and harvest, which becomes a lesson.
“The interesting thing is that when they bring them back and properly prepared, they eat them,” adds Sipe.
It would be great if every school were like this. Unfortunately, as Dr. Patrick Casey with Arkansas Children’s Hospital tells us, it’s not always the case.
“Where we worry is in children who live in households and families where they don’t have adequate access to food. It’s not available to them,” he says.
Or, it’s just not in the budget for parents to buy healthy food, which leads to health problems.
“Approximately 20 percent of the families that come into the emergency department report food insecurity,” adds Casey.
Some of the solutions?
“Food stamps is one of the greatest protectors,” Casey says.
There’s also WIC, a Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
With programs like these and schools like Little Scholars, students will eat, learn and live better.