Veterans and Food Insecurity
What do the Northwest Arkansas Foodbank and Veterans have to do with each other? Potentially a lot! Even Veterans can be susceptible to food insecurity. The Northwest Arkansas Food Bank is a 501(c)(3) organized to help communities in Northwest Arkansas. The Food Bank partners with hunger relief agencies in local communities and distributes food across Northwest Arkansas to over 130 member agencies. Then, these soup kitchens, food pantries, mobile pantries and school pantries distribute the food to those people who need it.
The Northwest Arkansas Food Bank mobile pantry travels out into the NW Arkansas communities, going to 16 locations each month with food available to anyone who is in need. You can find the locations and times here.
The Holiday season seems to be an appropriate time to bring to mind that not everyone always has the abundant resources that are enjoyed by ¾ of the state and nation. Food insecurity is a real problem, in Arkansas and across America. Even though the numbers in this article deal with Northwest Arkansas, the ideas hold in varying degrees across the entire nation.
Feeding America estimates that one in six Americans face hunger daily. In 2018, Feeding American reported that around 163,800 children in Arkansas were food insecure (University of Arkansas School of Law n.d.). That’s right, it is estimated that over 20% of children in Northwest Arkansas live in a food insecure environment. In the four counties that make up Northwest Arkansas, it is estimated there are 80,000 people who are food insecure. That is nearly the entire population of Fayetteville, but because they are spread out over all four counties they often go unnoticed.
What is food insecurity? Is it the same as hunger? Food insecurity doesn’t have to mean that there is never food in the house. It simply means that a person or family does not have access to enough food for everyone in the family at all times. One or more family members may go hungry so that others can eat, or utilities can be paid.
For Veterans who are dealing with PTSD, depression, anger, and anxiety, living in a condition of not knowing when or if they are going to eat next is an exacerbating condition that only makes their situation worse. Many Veterans in NWA face the issue of food insecurity weekly. NW Arkansas Food Bank and its partner agencies across NWA are available to help alleviate that problem
The NWA Food Bank receives donations from sources including the food and grocery industry and federal agencies. They also receive assistance from other nonprofits and from outright purchases of food as needed.
The Food Bank operates out of a large warehouse in Springdale. Employees and volunteers package into the food into boxes according to the need of the partner agencies. They prepare it for transportation to various food pantries across the region.
The partner agencies across NWA distribute the food to the people in need. There are locations across NWA providing food to those in need every day of the week. If you are in need, you can click here to locate the nearest food pantry to your location.
The Need for Help
There are many people, and many Veterans, in NWA who are not in need of the services of the NWA Food Bank. However, they could be of service TO the Food Bank. As a 501(c)(3), the Food Bank is constantly in need of support.
This support can take many forms. Like all nonprofits, the food bank appreciates monetary donations. According to the Food Bank, 95% of the money donated goes directly toward food purchase. The Food Bank receives most food at a very steeply discounted price, so that $1.00 will help to provide up to 8 meals.
The Food Bank has resources for hosting a food drive. They publish a food drive “needs list” and greatly encourage members of the community to come together and host food drives.
One of the main needs for the Food Bank is volunteers. Having volunteered at the food bank last year, we can tell you that there is a lot that goes in to preparing the boxes of food to be picked up and delivered to the schools and food pantries. The Food Bank needs volunteers for everything from sorting, to packing, to breaking down cardboard boxes.
Food Pantries in Arkansas
Though we are focused on Northwest Arkansas, we would be remiss to not at least mention the other hubs of food assistance in the state and where they can be located.
The Food Bank of North Central Arkansas serves the following counties: Boone, Newton, Marion, Search, Baxter, Stone, Fulton, Izard and Sharp. It is located in Mountain Home.
The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas serves the following counties: Randolph, Clay, Lawrence, Greene, Jackson, Craighead, Mississippi, Poinsett, Woodruff, Cross, Crittenden, and St. Francis. The Food Bank is located in Jonesboro.
The River Valley Regional Food Bank serves the following counties: Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Sebastian, Logan, Yell, Scott, and Polk. The Food Bank is located in Fort Smith.
The Harvest Regional Food Bank serves the following counties: Sevier, Howard, Pike, Little River, Hempstead, Nevada, Miller, Lafayette, and Columbia. The Food Bank is located in Texarkana.
The Arkansas Food Bank serves the Central and SE portions of Arkansas, taking in all of the other counties. The Food Bank itself is located in Little Rock.
Food Pantries in NWA
There are a multitude food pantries in Northwest Arkansas. Often, the problem is not lack of food resources. In many cases, accessing resources is a challenge, either because of location or hours of operation. A report by CGR, published in 2018, noted that the majority of food pantries in Washington and Benton counties operated during normal work hours, from 8am – 4pm with just a handful remaining open to 6pm during the week (Rosenberg 2018). Those most in need may not have a means of accessing food that is freely available.
If you are in need and don’t have a way to access the food resources that are in your community, contact the pantry. Work through them and your friends or family to access the food resources you need. And Veterans who are able, check on your fellow Veterans to see if they need assistance. Remember, we are all family. Take care of each other.
There are resources in our local community to help Veterans and others who are in need of food. If you, or someone you know, is in need, reach out to your local food pantry for help. You can call the NW Arkansas Food bank directly at 479-872-8774 for assistance, or go to their website and click on “Find Food”.
Rosenberg, Alice Carle and Erika. 2018. Addressing Food Insecurity in Northwest Arkansas: Identifying Barriers and Ways to Strengthen the Charitable Food System. Rochester: CGR Inc.
University of Arkansas School of Law. n.d. Food Recovery in Northwest Arkansas. Accessed November 22, 2021. https://law.uark.edu/service-outreach/food-recovery-project/food-recovery-nwa.php.