Weekly Columns

Fighting Hunger in Arkansas

Senator John Boozman's Column for the Week of September 12, 2011

Sep 14 2011

Arkansas children are increasingly wondering if they will eat tonight according to a recently released study by Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization. The most staggering statistic is that nearly one fourth of Arkansas children go to sleep hungry. While we’ve seen the images of starving children in Somalia in news coverage, the reality is we don’t have to go far to see that hunger exists here.

September is designated as National Hunger Action Month and this is an issue that I believe we can and must make a significant impact on. This month is more than just speaking about this issue, it’s about getting out to help our neighbors by increasing access to nutritious food.

As a co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, a bipartisan coalition of Senators committed to fighting hunger and food insecurity, we’re working to raise awareness and resources to address hunger issues.

During the August recess I visited the Arkansas Foodbank and saw how it works with organizations throughout the state to distribute food to Arkansans in need. This facility serves central and southern Arkansas and is leading efforts to raise awareness through its “30 Ways in 30 Days” initiative including the “Paper Plate Campaign,” which tells the stories of the hungry on paper plates.

I was touched by the stories I read from Arkansans using this service. Several stories on the paper plates indicated people lost their job and had to choose between putting food on the table and paying electricity bills and other utility costs.

It’s painfully clear that our current economic environment is intensifying our hunger issues in the state. Little Rock Church representatives told me the increased outreach they’ve done within the past two years and that more than half of the people they help are 65 and over or 18 and younger.

I’m proud to see the community involvement throughout our state that is working to address hunger and malnourishment. In Fort Smith, the River Valley Regional Food Bank is raising awareness by lighting the downtown Ferris wheel with orange lightbulbs and a recent donation of $500,000 to the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank by the LPGA Wal-Mart NW Arkansas Championship golf tournament will go a long way to help hungry Arkansans.

While these organizations can’t cure hunger by themselves, they are making great strides to provide nutritious food. Please consider what you can do to help eliminate hunger and improve nutrition in your community.  Consider making a donation to a hunger-relief organization, like a centralized food bank, or a food pantry at your church.

I am committed to working with my colleagues in Congress, through existing federal programs and agencies, and most importantly, our local hunger relief networks to fight hunger in our state and throughout the world.