story by Jamie Smith
photo courtesy of the Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter
VAUGHN — When children come through the front doors at the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter, it’s often at odd hours of the night and they are hungry, tired and scared. In most cases, they’ve been removed from their home because of neglect, abuse or because their parents have been arrested for alleged criminal activity.
On Tuesday (Sept. 4), Tyson Foods Inc. gave the shelter a $64,000 grant for the Tyson Foods’ Nutritious Meals Program, which provides nutritional support for the hundreds of children who come to the shelter each year. The shelter expects an estimated $48,000 in reimbursement from other sources this fiscal year, so the Tyson grant effectively funds the balance of the $112,000 budget for food in 2012.
“This donation is another example of our company’s ongoing efforts in the fight against hunger,” said Ed Nicholson, who oversees Tyson Foods’ hunger-relief efforts. His full title is director of social media and community relations. “We’re grateful for the work of the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter and are proud to help ensure at-risk children are receiving the nutritious food they need to be healthy.”
UNDERSTANDING THE NEED
The shelter cared for 432 children in 2011and is expected to serve more than 500 by the end of this calendar year.
“[The children] need to feel safe and understand that their needs are going to be taken care of,” Steve Schotta, the shelter’s executive director, said at the same event. “We help them deal with the trauma [of being removed from the home] and being well-fed is a part of that.
“Once they are safe and well fed, then the healing can begin,” Schotta said.
The shelter’s nutrition program is guided by a licensed nutritionist and involves serving about 40,000 meals and 30,000 snacks each year. Those snacks and meals are all carefully monitored to ensure that they are healthy and nutritionally balanced. Sound nutrition is part of promoting good health and healing of mind and body.
Besides nutritional meals, the shelter makes healthy snacks readily available. For example, there’s a large fruit bowl of fresh fruit in the kitchen, which is a popular feature with the children, Schotta said.
“Some have come in here and tell us that this is the first apple they’ve ever had,” he said. “Eating fresh fruit is something they didn’t have before.”
Annetta Young, director of corporate philanthropy at Tyson, said Tyson has “always donated food, but it was formalized in 2000.”
The company’s hunger awareness program serves to partner with various organizations such as the Food Research and Action Center, Feeding America, Share Our Strength, Lift Up America and the League of United Latin American Citizens to raise awareness and help feed the hungry across the nation, she said. Tyson has donated money and food across the country, but being able to donate in the corporation’s proverbial back yard has special meaning.
“It means a lot to give back to the communities where we have operations,” Young said.
SUPPORTING THE CHILDREN
This is a one-time grant for the current fiscal year. The shelter will reapply for the grant each year.
The shelter, which is a private, non-profit organization, provides 24-hour emergency residential care for children and teens from throughout the state. The shelter receives a per-diem reimbursement from the state for up to 16 children, but the shelter raises enough private funds to be able to house up to 48 children at a time, Schotta said. More than 6,100 children have been helped through the shelter since 1993.
Corporate donations and community fundraisers provide the necessary money to serve the children’s needs, he said.