By Madison Rodgers
More than 287,000 children in Arkansas rely on free or reduced-price school breakfast or lunch programs. Unfortunately, for one in four Arkansas children, the arrival of summer break means that they no longer have school meals to depend on. The Be Mighty campaign is an organization dedicated to connecting kids and teens with after-school and summer meal programs. The program is open to all children, with no need for proof of income or identification. All the children have to do is sign in when they arrive at the meal site.
In August of 2018, Little Rock was one of six cities awarded the Cities Combating Hunger Through After School and Summer Meal Programs (CHAMPS) grant through the national league of cities. Through this opportunity, the “Be Mighty” campaign was born. The coordinator of this program, Kay Kay DeRossette, has been working with food pantries, food banks, and other food aid organizations since she was a college student, saying “I’ve always been interested in food and in helping people.” Kay Kay encourages congregations and nonprofits within Little Rock to join this campaign by sponsoring a meal site, co-sponsoring a meal site, or volunteering with one of the 30 existing programs.
If a congregation is interested in becoming a sponsor of a meal site, there are a few necessary steps to complete. First, discuss it with the board. Make sure the congregation can provide for these children and is aware of the requirements. Second, secure funding beyond the USDA’s reimbursement. Third, decide on the scale of the program. What meals will you provide? How many weeks will you operate? Is your model sustainable and will it be replicable for years to come? Finally, secure staff to maintain and administer the program.
After preliminary steps have been completed, congregations can begin the application process with Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS). A Be Mighty coordinator will help congregations navigate the DHS application. After approval, the staff overseeing the program will attend training with DHS.The need for more programs to provide after-school and summer meal programs is very great in Arkansas. To start the application process, visit the DHS website and have your tax ID ready.
If your congregation is interested in co-sponsoring a meal site, begin by reaching out to sponsors in your area. If you need help finding a sponsor, you can visit www.BeMightyLittleRock.org for more information. The deadline to find your sponsor is March 15. Congregations can also become involved in this program through volunteering at a site. Congregations can pick a day to bring volunteers and make it a regular weekly or monthly event.
If you’re interested in participating in this program by sponsoring, co-sponsoring, or volunteering, or you have any questions, you can contact Kay Kay DeRossette. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 501-918-3016 for more information. Be Mighty, and the ADHS highly encourage congregations and organizations become involved in any way they can because, as Perry Hunter from ADHS said, “The greatest need is volunteers.”