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April 23, 2020
By Tracy CourageU of A System Division of Agriculture
(842 words)(Download this story in MS Word format here.)
LITTLE ROCK — The current COVID-19 pandemic may have forced a change in plans, but
it hasn’t deterred members of the Arkansas Extension Homemakers Council from their
goal of raising enough money to provide one million meals to Arkansans struggling
with food insecurity.
The council — one of Arkansas’ largest volunteer groups with more than 3,700 members
statewide — kicked off an online food drive April 23 to provide food for needy families.
Donations can be made via https://uaex.uada.edu/EHC. The group is partnering with six Feeding America Food Banks across Arkansas, many
of which have seen spikes in food requests as Arkansans face unemployment and income
loss amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
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,” said Roberta Shankle, of Hardy who is a
member of the Hardy Country Ladies EHC and the statewide EHC meal drive coordinator.
“We know many people are making do with less, and we ask people to just give as they
feel led to give.”
The council was already planning a statewide food drive before the pandemic. Last
fall, the state’s 320 EHC clubs chose food insecurity as their statewide community
service project and set a goal of raising enough money and collecting enough food
to provide one million meals.
Meals will be tracked based on buying power of the regional food banks, which buy
large quantities of food, often for pennies on the dollar. At the Arkansas Food Bank,
$1 provides five meals; at the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank, $1 provides as many as
Before the pandemic, clubs were hosting food drives and donating supplies to food
pantries and hunger relief organizations. The Hot Springs County Extension Homemakers,
for example, donated 5,000 boxes of cereal and $1,000 to the Arkansas Food Bank. Though
face-to-face events are canceled for now, EHC members hope their online crowdsourcing
efforts will provide some relief to needy families.
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, Northwest Arkansas Food Bank, Harvest Regional Food Bank and
River Valley Regional Food Bank.
“By partnering with the area food banks, we can leverage our buying power,” Shankle
said. “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.”
The fundraising effort comes at a critical time, as food banks are seeing a surge
in request for services.
“During the spring of 2020, food banks have seen as much as a 50 percent increase
in requests for our services,” said Jeff Quick, chief executive officer at the Food
Bank of North Central Arkansas. “The COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented, and we anticipate
an increased need for months, if not years to come, related to the economic impact
of the crisis. The Feeding America Food Banks across the state are grateful for the
support of the Extension Homemakers Clubs statewide. The support of these ladies will
enable our food banks to serve thousands of Arkansans who are struggling with hunger
and poverty. “
The Food Bank of North Central Arkansas, which serves 80 partner hunger relief organizations
in nine Arkansas counties, is seeing more people who have lost their jobs or experienced
a loss of hours and senior citizens and others who have difficulty accessing food
through their local grocery stores and markets.
Children who depend on meals at school have also been especially hard hit during this
time, Quick said.
“While 90 percent of our schools in Arkansas are providing grab and go meals, many
children and their families have limited transportation that keeps them from accessing
these meals,” he said.
The EHC clubs will continue fundraising through 2021, said Karen Bell Fox, AEHC president.
“We have an ambitious goal, and we’re committed to this,” Fox said. “We believe that
working together in a group we can have a powerful impact in our communities and our
state by helping get food into the hands of those among us who are struggling.”
Hunger relief has been an ongoing effort in Extension Homemakers’ more than 100-year
The clubs, formerly known as Home Demonstration Clubs, ran soup kitchens during the
flu pandemic of 1918; they canned vegetables and donated surplus to families during
the Great Depression; and they planted victory gardens to increase food supply during
World War II. Before the federal school lunch program began, EHC clubs were providing
lunches for children in rural communities.
“Community service is one of the hallmarks of the Extension Homemakers Clubs,” said
Laura Hendrix, associate professor at the University of Arkansas System Division of
Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service and EHC advisor. “They see a need, and they
Last year, volunteers donated more than 325,000 hours of service.
To learn more about Arkansas Extension Homemakers in your area, contact your local
Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity,
sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran
status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative
Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Media contact:Tracy CourageDirector, Communications ServicesU of A System Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org