Arkansas—our home state—ranks 11th in the U.S. among states for total agricultural production. Lots of food produced here.
Yet according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, it ranks #1—worst—among states with the highest percentage of children at risk of hunger.
Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe thinks it’s time something is done to erase that paradox. That’s why he was very receptive when Share Our Strength approached him this past summer at the National Governors Conference with their No Kid Hungry state strategy.
Their ensuing discussions resulted in an announcement on Friday of a new partnership focusing on drastically reducing childhood hunger in our home state.
The collaboration brings parties to the table who have all worked toward alleviating hunger and poverty, yet who’ve never worked together as one before. The lead agency in the effort, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, which includes all of the state’s major food banks, will help implement Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry strategy. Other key players include state agencies, such as the Arkansas Department of Human Services; the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services; other non-profit organizations focusing on child welfare and hunger; and private sector partners.
Because it’s going to take a collaborative effort to achieve this lofty goal.
Wal-Mart generously provided a $150,000 grant to ensure the effort is adequately funded to start.
We were at the announcement with a donation of 180,000 pounds to the state’s six food banks in support of the project.
The three fundamental components of the strategy:
• Increasing access to public and private programs that provide food to children and their families.
• Strengthening community resources that connect children to healthy food.
• Improving families’ knowledge about available programs and how to get the most from limited resources.
Kudos to Governor Beebe and Share Our Strength for starting this process. It’s up to all of us to see that it’s successful.