FAULKNER COUNTY, Ark. — Students in Faulkner County who don't have groceries at home, can shop for their own and they don't need cash.
Last summer, a Conway High School teacher inspired the Community Action Program for Central Arkansas (CAPCA) to start a food pantry for Faulkner County students.
"Her name is Crystal Certain, and she started a pantry in her class, and she was seeing hundreds of kids come through a day that needed help, and knowing they had hunger problems," Community Programs Director Melissa Allen said.
Once school was out, Crystal was worried about how kids would eat.
"I told her: 'well, we'll just operate a student market for you and over the summer, and we'll take care of your kids,'" Allen said.
This summer, CAPCA expanded the pantry into a full 'student market' in a borrowed room with plans to provide free food, toiletries, and books until July 31.
They've been able to do this thanks to donations, but the need has exceeded the money coming in.
"We put out some requests yesterday because we are out of funds and donations are kind of dwindling a little bit. We're still seeing our donors that are coming in every week and bringing food. But, it's not enough to keep up with the demand. We're serving over 530 students this summer," Allen said.
When students shop, they can take 14 breakfast items, 14 lunch items, 28 snacks, and five drinks.
"Whenever you start tallying that up, that's a tremendous amount of food going out," Allen said.
Students don't have to show up with an adult or bring any documentation regarding income.
“If they're coming to see us, then they're in need and we don't ask them a lot of personal questions," Allen said.
They just want to make sure they leave with their basic needs.
"You know, it's a lot of hard work, but it's so extremely rewarding. We had a little girl come in and whenever she found out we had strawberry pop tarts, I mean, she just squealed. She was so excited," Allen said.
It’s a rewarding experience they plan to do again next year.
"We had a young man this morning who came in who had not yet eaten, and so this was going to be his first meal of the day. It is the most tremendous feeling that you could possibly experience whenever you get to see the kids who are in need to come in and get the items that they need," Allen said.
Donations can be dropped off at the Summer Student Market. It’s located at 707 Robins St., Suite 120, in Conway.
The market is open Monday through Wednesday from 8:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 1:15 p.m. to 4 p.m.
You can find updates on their needs on their Facebook page.