Aug 29, 2022 - News

Help is on the way for NWA's hunger relief efforts

Illustration of a bag of groceries and money.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

AmeriCorps, a federal agency focused on volunteerism and service, is expanding its presence in Arkansas to help hunger relief efforts.

Why it matters: About 22% of households in Arkansas are food insecure, according to the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.

What's happening: AmeriCorps will give a $255,000 grant to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences as part of the AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program's food security initiative over the next three years.

This will add 25 new members to the program for a total of 44 members, officials from the two organizations announced Thursday at the UAMS Office of Community Health and Research in Springdale.

  • AmeriCorps will pay the members' salaries in addition to the grant that covers travel expenses and a UAMS supervisor, Dan Dunlap, AmeriCorps south central deputy regional administrator, told Axios.

Details: The AmeriCorps members work with local organizations, such as food banks and agriculture programs, to help expand existing community services and increase access to food. Their work can involve fundraising, outreach and grant writing, Dunlap said.

What they're saying: The VISTA program provides volunteers for organizations that care about food insecurity but need more resources to address the issue, said Pearl McElfish, associate director for community outreach and engagement at the UAMS cancer institute and former vice chancellor of UAMS Northwest.

  • The program supports UAMS' mission of ensuring every Arkansan has the ability to live a healthy life and addressing the social determinants of health, she said.

State of play: UAMS' existing AmeriCorps members work at Apple Seeds, Center for Arkansas Farms and Food and the UAMS Farm to Institution program in NWA; Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, St. Joseph Center of Arkansas and Wallace Center at Winrock in central Arkansas; and Elaine Legacy Center in the Delta, David Wise, spokesperson for UAMS, told Axios.

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