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Food Bank Hunger Awareness Story: Little Rock, Arkansas

A REAL Thanksgiving Story!

Submitted by Arkansas Food Bank Network
As told by Amy Branson – Stuttgart Public Schools

Background

Passing through the fertile, golden fields of the Arkansas Grand Prairie, where Stuttgart is located and is known as the “Rice Capital of the World,” it is difficult to imagine that hunger is a reality for many children who attend Park Avenue Elementary School (PAE). Sixty-six percent of the students are eligible to receive free and/or reduced-price lunches and are considered economically disadvantaged. Research indicates that hunger and poverty significantly impact the cognitive, academic and psychosocial development of school-age children.

To help alleviate this problem, the local Kiwanis Club, in partnership with PAE and the Arkansas Foodbank Network (AFN), recently completed its first year of the Kiwanis Backpack Program – a program that provides children in-need with food for the weekends. During the 2006-2007 school year, 62 students took home 1,856 backpacks filled with nutritious, easy-to-prepare foods every Friday afternoon. The backpacks are prepared by clients from the Grand Prairie Job Center, a work-skills program for developmentally disabled adults – an additional benefit to our community.

(The “story” below took place on Wednesday, November 14, 2007. THANK YOU for everything you have done to help make the backpack program at Park Avenue Elementary a huge success!)

One of the reading recovery instructors brought a student to see me Wednesday afternoon. He gave me a big smile and said “thank you for the backpack full of food.” This is not really unusual - many of the students who receive backpacks make their way to my office or see me in the hallway and express their gratitude.

What made this situation different is that this young man and the instructor had been discussing the word “favorite” and the instructor asked him to write a sentence using the word. The student, proud to show off his very best first-grade effort at penmanship, handed me the paper where he had written, “For my sister and me our favorite day of the week is Friday.” The instructor then encouraged the student to tell me why Friday was his favorite day of the week. His honest, sweet answer was, “Because we get to take home food so we will not be hungry.”