Danielle May, grant writer for the Samaritan Community Center, brings us a powerful opportunity to combat childhood hunger in Northwest Arkansas. I met Danielle through If:Gathering NWA and each time I talk with her I am blown away by her love and service for people in need. We believe together that sharing stories brings awareness to our community needs which leads to action. I am excited and honored to share Danielle’s vision for empowering children to fight hunger. –Bonnie King
The day was winding down, quickly approaching 2:00 on a beautiful Friday afternoon. The students in Room 213 were bouncing off the walls, eagerly looking forward to a couple of fun days away from school. Louis is trying to catch his breath. He just scarfed down his afternoon snack. He feels guilty because he didn’t save it and try to make it last over the weekend. His mom woke up late so he missed the free school breakfast. He got in trouble twice this morning for not paying attention. He couldn’t help but daydream about what they were serving for lunch today. Now he is dreading the weekend because it’s the end of the month and his family is out of food stamps. Last night they ate the very last of the pretzels and cheese dip. Louis really hoped he was not going to have to wait until Monday morning to eat again. Last week when he walked into the cafeteria, he literally fainted in the hallway when he smelled the food being prepared in the cafeteria. He wishes he could spend the night with his friend Thomas. But that probably won’t happen again. Last time Louis didn’t want to play video games or have another Pokemon battle. He refused to leave the kitchen when Thomas’s mom was baking, and all he wanted to do was eat. He even went back for fourths at dinner! Louis just couldn’t get excited about weekends like his classmates.
This isn’t simply a heartbreaking story. And the setting isn’t in some far off land. This is reality, right here at home. Every day, over 25,000 stories of childhood hunger are happening in Northwest Arkansas. Samaritan Community Center serves these at-risk children through our Snackpacks for Kids program which provides weekly nutritional support to over 7500 children ranging from preschool to high school. While this program allows at-risk children like Louis to arrive at school on Mondays attentive and ready to learn, we know some of their greatest allies are their friends and school community. It is our desire to bring awareness to their peers-the ones who encourage them to hope and dream beyond their circumstances.
We hear these stories every day at Samaritan- families without enough food, children unable to concentrate in class, empty tummies demanding their attention, friends not sure how to help. These stories are similar to the one found in a delightful book, Maddi’s Fridge, that my Executive Director recently shared with me. In this children’s storybook, Sofia and Maddi live in the same neighborhood, play in the same park, and go to the same school. But while Sofia’s fridge at home is full, Maddi’s fridge is empty with just a small container of milk that Maddi insists on saving for her little brother. Sofia promises Maddi she won’t tell, but is determined to help her best friend. She sneaks food for Maddi in her bag and discovers that, while fish and eggs are good for kids, they aren’t very good for backpacks. Despite Sofia’s very best efforts, Maddi’s fridge is still empty and she isn’t quite sure what to do.
I loved reading this book with my own kiddos and diving deeper into the issue of childhood hunger with them. They are aware of the issue as we have discussed it previously as a family in relation to my work at Samaritan, and they have helped at several meal packing events. However, it was interesting to gain the varying perspectives of a kindergartener and 3rd grader. Maddi’s Fridge helped bridge the gap and gave them an insight into the daily life of a child facing hunger and how they can be a better friend.
Now we want to share this relevant resource with elementary schools across NWA. Our goal is to have two copies of Maddi’s Fridge in every elementary school library in Benton, Washington, Carroll and Madison Counties (164 books total). As a book nerd, I am most excited about hosting a special Skype visit with Lois Brandt, the author of Maddi’s Fridge, to kick off the distribution of the books!
I would love for you to join us in bringing this impactful story to best friends across NWA. You can donate online at www.purecharity.com/scc-books. A simple $10 will purchase one book while $20 will supply one school library and $250 will empower an entire school district. You can even select your gift to go towards a specific school. Can you imagine the next generation fired up to tackle hunger?!
ABOUT SAMARITAN COMMUNITY CENTER
Samaritan Community Center has served Northwest Arkansas since 1989, originally as a local church outreach and since 2002, as an independent, non-profit organization. Our mission as a grace-driven organization is to serve the hurting and hungry through a compassionate community of staff and volunteers. Using a relational approach to operations, we encourage client families to access multiple services to meet immediate physical needs (food, clothing, health care) and to work with our licensed social workers and counselors to make positive change towards financial independence and healthier lives.
One out of four Northwest Arkansas children face the physical, emotional and behavioral challenges related to hunger and food insecurity. SCC serves these at-risk children through our Snackpacks for Kids program which provides weekly nutritional support to over 7500 children ranging from preschool to high school. This program allows at-risk children to benefit from improved nutrition, increased self-esteem and a positive education experience.
For more information, visit us at www.samcc.org or on Facebook www.facebook.com/samaritancommunitycenter or call us at 479.636.4198.