Applications to take part in the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Summer Food Service Program will be taken beginning Feb. 24. Schools, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies are needed to provide children with meals and snacks while school is not in session during summer.

Buster Lackey, DHS Summer Feeding program administrator, explained the program at the Jan. 9 meeting of the Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce; more details were given in a Feb. 1 press release.

In Arkansas, one in three children go to bed hungry, Lackey said. "That is absolutely no meal, nothing in the refrigerator, go to sleep with nothing," he said at the Chamber meeting.

DHS will accept applications for sponsors through April 15, 2014.

For more information or assistance contact the DHS Health and Nutrition office at 501-682-8869 or 1-800-482-5850 ext. 28869.

Information about the Summer Food Service program and a sponsor application form is available online at:

https://dhs.arkansas.gov/DCCECE/SNP/SummerInfoM.aspx.

Meals are made available to all children regardless of age, color, sex, race, national origin, or disability.

"I hear all the time … ‘we really don’t have that problem here, we don’t have hungry kids in our neighborhood,’ You would be surprised how many people in your own neighborhoods that do not have food in their refrigerators," Lackey remarked at the Chamber meeting.

The Summer Feeding program is federally funded and was begun to ensure children who receive free or reduced lunches during the school year have regular meals when school is not in session. Organizations that qualify as program sponsors will receive reimbursement for meals and snacks that are served to children, Lackey said.

"We need sponsors in every county in the state so that all children in Arkansas who are at risk of hunger have a place to go for a meal," he said.

There are 220,000 children receiving free and reduced price lunches in the state; the 2013 Summer Feeding Program provided 3.7 million meals, Lackey said. "That was just lunch;" 98,000 children were fed each day, he said.

In the press release, Lackey assured that "DHS will be there to support sponsors every step of the way,

"We provide training and are always available to answer any questions they may have."