Several businesses in Fort Smith are working with the Fort Smith Public Library and other agencies to provide meals to children during Spring Break.
According to a press release from the River Valley Regional Food Bank, seven out of 10 students in the Fort Smith Public School District receive a free or reduced lunch at school.
“So, where do school children who receive free and reduced lunches at school go for food during Spring Break? That's a question we started asking,” Ken Kupchick, director of marketing for the River Valley Regional Food Bank.
Some students hang out at Fort Smith Public Library facilities during the week, said FSPL Director Jennifer Goodson. Some of the children stay all day and do not eat.
Kupchick reached out to area businesses to do something “symbolic” to raise awareness of the issue and feed a few of the children. Working with Goodson, they decided to provide lunches at the library’s Windsor Branch.
“There are 10,000 kids in the Fort Smith School District who receive that (lunch support during school). We don’t have the means to provide them all a lunch over Spring Break, so this is our symbolic gesture,” Kupchick explained.
Debra Presson, with Golden Corral in Fort Smith, signed up to provide Monday lunches. About 30 children received a lunch on Monday, up from the about 20 in 2012, the first year of the effort.
Mickey Sellard with the Golden Living cafeteria agreed to provide lunches on Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, Carl Davis, owner of Davis Iron & Metal, is scheduled to conduct a hot dog cookout. Kupchick said they plan to provide around 200 hot dog meal.
Ling Ling Moorman, a volunteer with St. John's Sack Lunch program, is providing a ham sandwich lunch on Wednesday.
Alex Catsavis, with George's Restaurant, is providing on Thursday a mixed deli tray for the children to make up their own lunches.
Joe’s Cantina is providing Friday's lunch.
“Rick Card (with Joe’s Cantina) was more than willing to help and will put together a lunch with a Mexican flair,” noted the press release from River Valley Regional Food Bank. “Rick simply said, ‘You just tell me what you need.’”
Kupchick and Goodson said the number of children coming to the Windsor Branch for a lunch will grow through the week. They predict at least 50 children by Friday.
According to the River Valley Regional Food Bank statement, there are 21,700 kids in Sebastian and Crawford counties receiving free or reduced priced meals in school.
“I think it’s good for people to know that this level of hunger exists in our community,” Goodson said. “The businesses are the unsung heroes. They don’t this for the publicity. They do this because the need is there.”