By Bridgett Martin-CEA-FCS/4-H
U of A System Division of Agriculture
MENA, AR — Members of the Polk County Extension Homemakers have been working since last fall to raise money as part of a statewide effort to provide one million meals for food-insecure Arkansans. Now they’ve taking their food drive online, beginning April 23.
Donations can be made via uaex.edu/EHC. Donations made in Polk County will go to the River Valley Regional Food Bank, who provides meals for our area of the state and local food banks where $1 provides as many as 5-10 meals.
The Polk County Extension Clubs make up part of the 320 clubs in the Arkansas Extension Homemakers Council, one of the state’s largest volunteer groups with 3,700 members. The clubs are partnering with six Feeding America Food Banks across Arkansas, which can buy food in bulk for pennies on the dollar.
“By partnering with the area food banks, we can leverage our buying power,” said EHC member Roberta Shankle, who is coordinating the statewide project. “Ten dollars can buy a few items at your local store, but food banks can use that same $10 to purchase much more food, and that means more meals for needy families.”
Though face-to-face events are being cancelled for now, the EHC members hope Polk County residents will still give online to help others who may be struggling.
According to the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, 17.3 percent of Arkansans were at risk of not knowing where to get their next meal, and 23.6 percent of children were food insecure before the pandemic.
“The need is now more critical than ever,” Shankle said. “We know many people are making do with less, and we ask people to just give as they feel led to give.”
Donations are routed to the food bank of the donor’s choice. Partnering food banks include the Arkansas Food Bank, Food Bank of North Central Arkansas, Food Bank of North East Arkansas, Harvest Regional Food Bank, Northwest Arkansas Food Bank and the River Valley Regional Food Bank.
The fundraising effort comes at a critical time, as food banks are seeing a surge in requests for services, especially among those who have experienced job loss or a reduction in work hours, senior citizens and others who have difficulty accessing food through their local grocery stores and markets.
The EHC clubs will continue fundraising through 2021, said Karen Bell Fox, AEHC president.