HomePine Bluff newsPine Bluff addresses student hunger during spring break

Pine Bluff addresses student hunger during spring break

Pine Bluff, Arkansas – While Spring Break may be a time for some kids to take a vacation, for many others in Arkansas, it is a time when they are unsure of where their next meal will come from.

According to the most recent data from the Arkansas Department of Education, about 280,000 children receive a free or reduced-price lunch each day. That equates to about 60% of all students attending public schools. The National School Lunch Program of the Arkansas Department of Human Services provides 141,254 breakfasts, 225,790 lunches, and 48,132-afternoon snacks to kids every day.

On Wednesday, hundreds of people waited all day in Pine Bluff for food. Several of them were transporting kids. From 8:30 am until 2:30 pm, Cynthia Simmons entertained her grandchildren who are in pre-K and second grade.

“This is a short line right now. It’s getting long, but this is short,” Cynthia Simmons said laughing as a line trickled onto Commerce Street.

She and many others were in the Belair Middle School parking lot to pick up food rather than send off children.

The First Ward Living Grace Pantry sent over 500 packages filled with food over Spring Break, along with snacks, new backpacks, and toys for each child. It couldn’t have arrived at a better moment, according to the families who will benefit.

“There’s a great need. If we didn’t need it, we wouldn’t be out here,” grandmother Marquentia Collier said.

Collier acknowledges that after paying her expenses, she virtually never has enough money to buy food for herself and her grandchildren.

“If the children are hungry, they can’t make good grades,” Collier insisted. “My little granddaughter tells me, ‘Grandma, make sure you get me to school on time so I can eat.’”

Without sponsors putting up the money to help others, no bag or backpack would be available. Summit Community Care, Derrika Walker-Matthews, Bill & Sharri Jones, and Wellcare Insurance all had a hand in it.

“This could be me. I look at every situation of giving back that I could be broke, I could be less fortunate, and homeless. God has placed me in a different platform that I’m able to be a giver,” Derrika Walker-Matthews said.

At least once a month, First Ward Living Grace Pantry strives to hold large giveaways. Simmon expressed her desire for a more widely available resource.

Ethan Sullivan

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