Little Rock city officials kick off Hunger Action Month
September is Hunger Action Month, and Little Rock city officials are announcing updates to programs seeking to ease the problem.
Mayor Frank Scott Jr. joined officials with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and the Central Arkansas Library System in a news conference to kick off the month on Thursday.
He cited the Be Mighty Little Rock meal program as one successful effort to fight hunger in the region.
“Unfortunately, Arkansas has high percentages of food insecurity within our state. However, the City of Little Rock remains committed as we collaborate with CALS, Rock Region Metro, the Little Rock School District, the Pulaski County Special School District, our Little Rock Parks and Recreation System and countless others,” Scott said.
One out of every five Arkansans struggles to find sufficient access to nutritious food, according to the Arkansas Food Bank, with about a quarter of all children in the state facing hunger.
The Be Mighty Little Rock meal program began in 2018 with a partnership between the city and several groups including Rock Region Metro, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, the Little Rock School District and the Central Arkansas Library System.
Program coordinator Jasmine Zandi said they plan to distribute food boxes to the public throughout the fall, with grab-and-go meals available for kids, teens and parents.
“Parents will only have to complete a parent attestation form to acknowledge that the children for whom they are picking up meals are theirs, but adult meals will also be available at select branches beginning later in September because, as it was mentioned, we know hungry kids likely come from hungry families,” Zandi said.
She says the program will also continue to provide Rock Region Metro bus passes to help residents access their food programs. They will continue to stock small food pantries available to the public, Zandi said, and have also begun providing after-school meal services.
The Be Mighty program has received numerous grants from groups including the National League of Cities and the National Recreation and Park Association, as well as receiving funding from the State of Arkansas and the City of Little Rock.
Nate Coulter, executive director of the Central Arkansas Library System, said the program has continued to expand since its founding four years ago.
“We help kids with math tutoring, we provide books… we provide technology access, we provide entrepreneur classes, but one of the most important things we do now is provide meals,” Coulter said. “Last year, with the money we got from the city and others, we served over 44,600 meals in our 11 libraries. There have been 4.5 million meals served since the start of this program across the city.”
Coulter said the success of the Be Mighty program has made it easier for the library system and the city to secure grants for other endeavors, such as a project to improve walkability around Jonesboro Drive near the Little Rock Zoo and the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library.
Grab-and-go meal boxes for children and adults will be available at library branches throughout the fall, with a full list of pickup times and locations online at bemightylittlerock.org.