A central Arkansas library will be doing double duty this summer -- educating children and feeding those who may not get a meal at home.
The Saline County Library is partnering with Arkansas businesses to kick off a new feeding program this summer. Staff said too many children go hungry when school’s out and they hope to help fill that void.
Every summer the Saline County Library holds a summer reading program.
“People think that libraries are just books but there is so much more that we can do,” Library Marketing Manager Kari Beesley said.
But now, they’re hoping to go above and beyond the summer curriculum. At a conference, they learned about libraries feeding children.
“There was a program there just about feeding children and we’ve always realized there’s a need but we didn’t realize we could do something about it being a library. It’s not something you really connect the dots with,” Beesley said.
The Hunger Alliance Coalition said in Saline County, 18.2 percent of children face food insecurity, which means about 5,000 children are considered food insecure. This can make it difficult for food programs to help them year-round.
“We realized that it’s a much bigger need than we thought,” Beesley said.
This summer their goal is to feed 125 children a week and to give each of those children a book.
The library is asking businesses for their help in collecting food items and hygiene products for area children.
Those children will discreetly receive a bag of necessities every week.
“We’ve been contacting businesses and asking them if they will just put out a donation box. And we’ll even provide the box. We’ll wrap it, get a big cardboard box wrap it and put our flyer on it. It has all the items that we’re collecting,” Beesley said.
Towards the end of the month, donation boxes will be dropped off at partnering businesses.
The donations will be picked back up in April or May.
“It’s a great need and I hope next year we’ll be able to grow this into something bigger and bigger each year,” Beesley said.
Examples of Food Needed:
Ramen noodles, small & microwavable soups, raisins and dried fruit, individual cereals, juices, fruit roll-ups, oatmeal bars (no nuts), pop tarts, chips, crackers, fruit snacks, pretzels, cheese spread and crackers, fruit cups, apple sauce, pudding, macaroni cups, instant potatoes, jello, tuna, spam, Vienna sausages, bean dip, instant oatmeal, small cookie bags, canned soups (only one or two cans per bag due to weight), beef jerky, bottled water.
No nuts, expired foods, or glass.
Examples of Hygiene Products Needed:
Shampoo and conditioner, soaps, deodorants, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, band-aids, small first aid kits, toothpaste and toothbrushes, tissues, tampons, pads, pantiliners.