CAMDEN, Ark. (11/5/19) If you have children of your own, you know that the number one question they ask when they get home after school is “what’s for dinner”.
When Demetria Rone, owner of Bright Beginnings childcare center, was asked a similar question, she knew something was wrong.
“She wanted to know if they could take some food home and I was like well you all just got done eating and then something quickened in me to go ahead and get them something because later I found out that they didn’t have anything to eat home.”
Being in the childcare industry, Rone knows firsthand how families don’t have access to affordable and nutritious foods.
“Their only meals are what I feed them and sometimes the ones that are in school the only meals they get is when they are in school,” she said.
According to the Food Bank of Arkansas, the state is the third-worst child hunger rate in the country. They say it impacts kids in central and southern Arkansas the hardest.
The Arkansas Department of Education reported that approximately 77% of students in the Camden Fairview School District receive free or reduced lunch.
“Breakfast and lunch will be covered by the school. So children are going to school hungry the next day because dinner isn’t covered,” Mayor of Camden, Julian Lott said. “With the community dealing with the food insecurity as we do this is an important need to be met.”
With that in mind, Rone rounded up a group of people including the owner of Bo’s Place to offer free meals to any child under 18.
Bo’s Place was formerly considered a lounge for adults but has now turned into a place just for the kids to study, play and eat.
“Today they’ll have milk, rolls, salisbury steaks, mixed vegetables, and mandarin oranges,” Rone said.
The group hopes to continue offering meals as long as there is a need. They’re working on transportation and activities for the kids.
“I want everyone to know that this is offered here and to feel free to bring your kids.”
The Operation Kids is partnering with the At-Risk meal program to provide the meal without charge.
Rone is coming out of pocket for the month of November, which she said she didn’t mind. There are a few volunteers that help daily but she’s encouraging anyone in the community to help if they can.