LITTLE ROCK - Last year Arkansas saw record growth in its programs to feed hungry children over the summer, and the same state agencies and non-profits are hoping to build on that success again this summer.
Arkansas had the largest increase in summer meals served to children, of all the states in the country. More than 98,000 children were served about four million meals. The previous summer about 53,000 children received 1.6 million. In 2012 meals were served at 583 sites, and last year at 882 locations in Arkansas. Officials hope to increase the number of locations to almost 1,000 this summer, and to increase the number of meals served by 10 percent.
In Arkansas, about 287,000 children are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. The federal Agriculture Department supplies those meals through school lunch programs.
The state Human Services Department administers the summer meals program. The same source of federal funding is used by the department to provide meals and snacks at children's and adult day care centers.
Summer is financially difficult for low-income families whose children qualify for free or low priced meals at school. In summer, parents often must pay for day care, as well as the additional costs for meals.
The No Kids Hungry Campaign, non-profit organizations, the Departments of Human Services, Education and Health, and First Lady Ginger Beebe are raising awareness of the need to keep hungry children in mind this summer.
First of all parents need to know that they can call 1-833-3-HUNGRY to find a local site where children can get meals. For Spanish speakers the number is 1-877-8-HAMBRE.
Also, parents can text FOODAR to 877- 877. And, they can go to www.whyhunger.org/findfood
to locate sites where children can get a meal.
The second part of the awareness campaign is to recruit organizations willing to be sponsors of summer meals, or willing to provide a location. The governor hopes to have at least one summer meal location in all 75 Arkansas counties this year.
In 2009 the governor, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and the national organization called No Kid Hungry ramped up summer meals programs after census data showed that more than 200,000 Arkansas children did not have reliable access to food. The size of the summer meal program has grown dramatically since 2009, when about 1.6 million meals were served in 313 locations across the state.
State budget officials predicted that agency budgets probably would be fully funded when the fiscal year ends on June 30, even though revenue in May was below forecast.
For the first 11 months of the fiscal year, the state has collected $2.8 billion in individual income taxes. That is 1.2 percent below the first 11 months of last year.
The state has collected almost $2 billion in sales taxes during the first 11 months of this fiscal year, which is 2.7 percent above last year.
Corporate income taxes paid so far this year total $374 million. That is 4.1 percent more than last year for the same period.
Net available revenue from all tax sources is almost $4.5 billion. That is 0.1 percent above last year.