Tuesday, August 22, 2017

TOP STORY >> Food shortage at youth club

Leader senior staff writer

The Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club needs help providing snacks and an afternoon meal for the children while the club and its partners sort through the bureaucracy of the Department of Human Services’ USDA program, according to LaConda Watson, club director.

For some children at the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club, the afternoon snack and meal are the only food they get to carry them over until breakfast at school the next day, she said.

When that’s not available, some are in a world of hurt.

Right now, the club is cobbling together a snack, but it could be at least two or three weeks until DHS approves them — and funds — for that afternoon meal and it could be October before USDA funded afternoon meals are thus available.


Some elementary school children eat lunch at 11 a.m. and without the food at the club, wouldn’t eat again until breakfast at school about 18 hours later.

Through a series of problems, the Boys and Girls Club can’t get food through last year’s sponsor, Watson said, and the one she thought they had lined up, Kosmic Kids, dropped out of the picture until it was too late to arrange for uninterrupted food service.


The Little Rock Food Bank has stepped forward to serve as a vendor—or sponsor—but first DHS has to approve the paperwork and then visit the club to make sure they meet sanitary standards, Watson said.

Watson and her two employees recently went through food-handling training in preparation for eventual inclusion in a program.

Currently, the Boys and Girls Club has 65 children in its afterschool program. Last year it ended up with 85, Watson said.

Over the summer, meals were provided at the schools.

“We are a disburser for several (after school) sites,” said Rhonda Sanders, Arkansas Food Bank CEO.

She said the food bank would have a contractual agreement with the USDA after school program.

“We’ll handle the administrative parts,” she said.

That includes filing the paperwork and getting the food to the site, in this case, the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club.


She said the food bank would be prepared to sponsor the club for years to come.

She said they hoped to have the Jacksonville part up and running for the new federal fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.

We’ll be working with health inspections and meeting all the requirements, said Jayne Ann Kita, chief program officer for the food bank.

Currently the food bank serves as the sponsor for seven after-school programs and is working on another seven, Kita said.

“This is going to be a great partnership,” she said.


Meanwhile, the club is providing snacks from its own limited funds until further arrangements can be made, but not the afternoon meal.

The snack might be popcorn or fresh or canned fruit, she said.

She says the club needs help to feed these youngsters until something more structured is approved.

The club cannot accept cooked or prepared food from homes or non-commercial, non-approved kitchens. Some logical sounding partial solution, like peanut butter sandwiches, is out because some children may have a peanut allergy.

Right now, until the club is approved and supplied through DHS, money is what is needed to buy the food to keep the children fed, she said.

Anyone able to make a donation should call Watson at 501-350-0762.