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SPRINGDALE -- Families unsure of their next meals may enjoy healthier options as they supplement their needs at local food banks and meal programs.

The City Council voted 7-0 Tuesday night to grant use of a building to Feed Communities. Council member Kathy Jaycox wasn't at the meeting.

Springdale partner pantries

• Bread of Life, 208 W. Emma Ave.

• Christians United Food Pantry, 714 W. Hunstville Ave.

• Compassion Center, 2407 S. Thompson St.

• House of Hope, 505 E. Emma Ave.

• Mercy Center of Northwest Arkansas, 5185 Apple Road

• Salvation Army, 315 Holcomb St.

• Samaritan Community Center, 1300 N. Thompson St.

• Springdale Senior Acitivity Center, 203 Park St.

• St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 2892 S. 48th St.

• St. Raphael Catholic Church, 1386 W. End Ave.

Source: Feed Communities

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The city owns the building at 100 E. Price St., which sits vacant across the street from the City Administration Building. Feed Communities will use the building as its Springdale Farm and Family Project, a produce clearinghouse for the nonprofit agency.

Ken Patterson, executive director of Feed Communities, explained the agency collects fresh produce donated to the agency by gardeners, farmers and stores. The agency would then distribute the produce to its nine partner agencies in Springdale, who in turn serve it through free hot meal programs or distribute it through food pantries to those in need.

About 31,000 people in Washington County face food insecurity, and more than 40 percent of those are unable to qualify for supplemental nutrition programs, Patterson said, quoting current figures from the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. "That means on any given day over the next six months they might not have access to food."

The goal for the Farm and Family project is to collect and distribute more than 1,000 pounds of food each week. Patterson hopes the program will grow with the momentum of the agency's program in Fayetteville.

Feed Communities partners with Harps Food Stores as the exclusive recipient of the produce the stores are unable to sell. Based on a 2017 pilot program with Harps Marketplace on North Crossover Avenue in Fayetteville, the agency expects each Harps store in Springdale to donate 400 to 600 pounds of food a week, for a total of 2,500 pounds per week.

Last year, the Samaritan Community Centers in Springdale and Rogers served 95,000 hot meals through its cafe programs and served 15,000 families through its food pantries, reported Jonathan McArthur, garden coordinator for Samaritan. Samaritan is one of the agencies receiving produce from Feed Communities.

"We will use as much produce as we can at the cafe," McArthur said. "We love to give out fresh produce. It's expensive to buy, so most people won't buy mangoes, apples or oranges."

Five years ago, the Samaritan centers started serving more healthy foods through the lunch and pantry programs. Feed Communities works with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Northwest on a similar project targeting high rates of obesity and diabetes in the Springdale community.

Fresh produce also speaks to the dignity of the people served, McArthur said. "We want to give them the highest quality of food we can," he said. "It's not always the easiest to do because it goes bad so quickly. Canned food is easier, but not as healthy."

The Springdale Farm and Family Center will include refrigerators for storing produce, but Patterson doesn't expect it to sit long in storage. Usually, the agency can get food distributed within 48 hours of its arrival, he said. He gave the example of a recent malfunctioning cooler at a Harps store in Fayetteville. The agency picked up 1,500 pounds of food about 2 p.m. one afternoon, and it was gone to the partner agencies by noon the next day.

The center also will install 10 garden beds on site for raising produce and offer classes on gardening, healthy eating and more. Patterson also hopes to develop a "tool library," in which residents can borrow gardening equipment, similar to a program Feed Communities offers through the Fayetteville Public Library. Gardeners and farmers also may donate produce to the organization.

"It's a great location for them to feed the community, to do their work helping people in making healthy food choices available to our community," said Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse.

Patterson expects the agency to begin the move-in process immediately, with an opening in mid- to late April.

NW News on 02/28/2018

Print Headline: City OKs building use for produce distribution center

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