In 2014, the Annual Conference voted to unite in mission to fight childhood hunger in Arkansas. Over the past 6 years, we have seen the number of food insecure children in Arkansas drop from 200,000 to 162,270. 86% or 540 churches have or are providing food to hungry children and their families, and 200,000 Reasons has distributed more than $200,000 in small grant awards to help support congregations in their feeding ministries.

Feeding ministries allow families to spend their limited income on other necessities like rent and utilities. However, the relief is temporary in so many cases. More needs to be done to significantly move the needle on childhood hunger. We are asking the Annual Conference to approve an expansion and extension of the work we have begun. As 200,000 More Reasons, we are asking churches to add poverty alleviation strategies to their ministries with hungry children. Specifically, we will focus on literacy and promoting healthy, stable families as means of hope and assistance for families to move out of poverty.

Our mission remains the same: 100% of Arkansas United Methodist churches will participate in an initiative to significantly reduce childhood hunger through feeding ministries, public witness and education for long-term stability.

200,000 More Reasons Objectives

Nutrition

200,000 More Reasons will continue fighting childhood hunger through the 5 Action Areas – Feed, Provide, Garden, Teach & Public Witness.

Literacy

200,000 More Reasons will provide literacy support so that every child in food insecure homes can read at grade level.

Stability

200,000 More Reasons will offer ministries to the adults in the lives of food insecure children that promote a healthy and stable family life.

The Methodist Foundation awarded 200,000 Reasons the largest grant ever by the Foundation to strategically fight childhood hunger in the Arkansas Delta. These persistently impoverished counties have the highest rates of food insecurity in Arkansas. This three-year grant of $477,000 will:

  1. Provide $96,000 each year for mobile distributions in partnership with local United Methodist congregations and the Arkansas Food Bank
  2. $28,000 in the first year to pilot 1-3 summer literacy experiences with the ability to add more ministries each year.
  3. $25,000 in grant awards for churches around the state to add literacy and reading support to feeding ministries.
  4. Support the hiring of the Delta Community Project Coordinator to offer support to these summer literacy experiences and to explore starting a Project Transformation (summer literacy intern experience) in Arkansas.

Have an Existing Ministry?

Already have a ministry that provides Nutrition, Literacy or Stability to low income children or the adults in their families? Complete this form.

GOAL: Engage children in reading activities to assist in achieving appropriate grade-level literacy.

  • Establish partnerships with local elementary, middle, and/or high schools, with 10% of members spending 10 hours per month in service to the school.
  • 50% of Arkansas Methodist churches offering on-site or partnership ministries that increase reading and academic skills as well as a snack, meal, or groceries to take home

Why: The most important predictor of high school graduation is a child’s ability to read by 3rd grade. More, children and adults who read below level are more likely to live in poverty.

Grade level reading statistics in Arkansas paint a difficult picture:

  • 63% of 3rd graders in Arkansas are reading below their grade level.
  • 67% of 4th graders are at or below basic reading ability.
  • Only 29% of 8th graders are proficient at reading compared to 35% nationally.
  • In 2017, students who were eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch, an indicator of low family income, had an average score that was 20 points lower than that for students who were not eligible.1
  • 13.7% of Arkansas adults age 16 and older lack basic literacy.2

Improving literacy skills increases the chances for graduation from high school and greater job opportunity, preparing the next generation of children to have parents with strong literacy skills.

Get Started:
Be creative! Talk to the teachers in your church. They know what will be effective!

Current feeding ministries can ask:

  • What would it look like to distribute books at our pantries or meals? Or add Little Free libraries next to our blessing boxes? Or add reading time at meals?
  • Those connected to weekend backpack programs ask how can we serve as tutors at the school?
  • Out-of-school meal programs, what would it like to add an hour of homework time or a book club?

Ministry Ideas:

  • Help children build personal libraries
    • Imagination Library – Offer financial support and help children ages 0-5 sign up to receive 1 free book very month. Every county has a local Imagination Library affiliate.
    • Collect & distribute new books from Scholastic or gently used books from your own libraries.
  • Host Book Clubs for teens, elementary age children, and children ages 0-5
  • Offer summer literacy experiences through VBS or weekly or short intensive programs
  • Offer an after-school ministry that provides reading and homework help
  • Partner with local literacy organizations to provide quality programs, such as your local Literacy Action Council.
  • Be an official “Partner in Education” with your local school system. Search “Partner in Education” on the internet in your area.

Ministry Examples:

Booneville United Methodist Church distributes meals on Thursdays to low income housing areas. They emptied their church library of books that children and their parents would like, distributing books with each meal. Weather permitting, they sit outside with the kids and read for a bit. Contact Mike Smith for more information.

Pulaski Heights United Methodist is a Partner in Education with Wakefield Elementary, providing tutors, a school food pantry, reading in classrooms on special days and purchasing Christmas gifts for over 115 children every year.

Altheimer United Methodist Church will be offering a 4-week Summer Literacy Experience in partnership with AR Kids Read and their local library. Trained tutors will spend time teaching reading skills Monday-Thursday around the lunch hour. Kids meet their tutors at a scheduled time at the library and grab lunch while there. Every kid will go home with new books at the end of the program.

Additional Resources

Additional Book Resources


1 2017 The Nations Report Card – Arkansas (NAEP) – https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/profiles/stateprofile?chort=1&sub=RED&sj=AL&sfj=NP&st=MN&year=2017R3
2 https://www.arkansasliteracy.org/who-we-are/literacy-needs-arkansas

Goal: 35% of churches will offer ministries that promote a healthy and stable family life for food insecure children through such ministries as nutrition education, mental health support, including resourcing access to substance abuse assistance, and support groups for families in need.

Why: Food insecurity and other at-risk factors can have traumatic effects on children. Adults and future adults need support to alleviate impoverished conditions. Some families in poverty don’t have the resources to address other destabilizing forces such as substance abuse, depression, disease, and being overwhelmed by caring for their family members. 200,000 More Reasons is our way to help the children who suffer by offering support to the adults in their lives.

  • Substance abuse is a major destabilizer for many families. There were approximately 750 opioid-related deaths in Arkansas in 2017.3 Drug abuse and overdose affects all races, classes, ages and gender. It does not discriminate.
  • MissionInsite Reports can be used to find out what is important in your community. One report in the Delta near Marianna showed that families expressed concern about personal health and life, such as
    • struggling with weight,
    • health problems,
    • depression,
    • caring for aging parents,
    • violence in their neighborhood,
    • day-to-day financial matters, and
    • making right choices or finding direction.

By offering creative ministries open to low income, at-risk families in your mission field, there is hope that families can learn healthier ways of coping with circumstances to create more stability at home. With more stability, the chances of alleviating poverty and ending food insecurity for these families becomes greater.

Ministry Examples and Ideas

  • Grandparent Support Groups
  • Nutrition Education Programs, including Cooking Matters
  • Group gathering or studies for health education (weight, diabetes, exercise, etc.)
  • Peer Recovery Group, AA & Resources for Substance Abuse Crisis
  • Dose of Reality Video for Youth Pastors, Parents and Youth Groups

Additional Resources
200,000 More Reasons will be developing more resources during Fall 2020.

The Arkansas Department of Health’s Family Health Program will provide free training around many important topics.

The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Office offers free (or low cost) curriculum and support, including leaders in some situations. Find your local office at uaex.edu/counties or email Brittany Schrick for assistance.

Curricula include:

  • Adventures in Grandparenting
  • Faith & Nutrition
  • Living Well with Diabetes
  • Walk Across Arkansas (walking groups)
  • Parenting with a Good Heart
  • Co-parenting in Divorce
  • Marriage Garden
  • Stress Management
  • Gardening

Additional Cooperative Extension Office resources also include resources on Life Skills and Wellness as well as Yards and Gardens.

To start or expand a ministry around food, literacy or promoting healthy, stable families, contact Mary Lewis Dassinger at mdassinger@arumc.org or 501-425-9049 for assistance.

For more information, please visit the Get Started page from the original 200,000 Reasons webpages here.

Church Name Title of Project
Almyra United Methodist Church Feed the Children
Asbury United Methodist Church COVID Funding for Asbury Food Pantry
Asbury United Methodist Church, Magnolia One Small Step
Bay United Methodist Church Feed the little children
Cabot United Methodist Church Cabot United Methodist Church Food Pantry
Canvas Community United Methodist Church Dinners at Canvas (Pandemic Version)
Carlisle First United Methodist Church Daily Bread Senior Food Pantry
Cedar Grove United Methodist Church backpack program
Corning First United Methodist Church Provide snacks and COVID-19 safety supplies to food insecure families
Cushman United Methodist Ongoing food pantry
Desha United Methodist Church Blessings Box
Fairview United Methodist Church Hand Sanitizer for our Food Pantry Patrons
First United Methodist Church, Arkadelphia Clark County Ecumenical Food Pantry
First United Methodist Church, Batesville Blessing Box
First United Methodist Church, Fort Smith The Casserole Crew
First United Methodist Church, Magnolia The Stewpot Covid-19 Relief Grant
First United Methodist Church, Maumelle Backpack Ministry
First United Methodist Church, Mountain View Feeding Ministries Response to Covid-19
First United Methodist Church, Russellville Covid-19 Expenses
First United Methodist, Bentonville Second Street Pantry Missions
Fisher Street United Methodist Church Pasmore Summer Feeding Program
Geyer Springs United Methodist Church Covid feeding and Safety Outreach
Good Faith Carr United Methodist Church Outdoor Food Pantry
Good Neighbor Little Food Pantry
Harmony Grove United Methodist Church Wanda Rose Food Pantry
Harmony United Methodist Church Family Table
Highland Valley United Methodist Church HVUnited Methodist Church COVID Response
Holiday Hills United Methodist Church Feed the Hungry
Lakeside United Methodist Church Youth backpack of food
Lakeside United Methodist, Pine Bluff Mi Casa Hispanic Ministry Food Distribution and mask
Leslie United Methodist Church Feeding the Hungry
Marianna Larger Parish Delta Dream Food Pantry
Marked Tree United Methodist Church COVID Response by 3 Rivers Food Pantry
McCabe Chapel Feeding Plus
Mt. Olive United  Methodist Church Food Pantry
Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church Food freezer, Distribution & Sanitizer
Newberry Chapel United Methodist Church Feeding Ministries Response to COVID 19 Grants
Oak Forest United Methodist Church FOOD PANTRY
Oxford Feeding Ministry
Perryville United Methodist Partners for Progress
Prairie Grove First United Methodist Church Samaritan’s Cupboard
Prescott First United Methodist Ministerial Alliance Project Be Safe
Primrose United Methodist Church Protecting Family and Friends
Quapaw Quarter United Methodist Church Community Breakfast
Rison United Methodist Church BLESSING BOX
Sardis United Methodist Church Food Pantry Program
St. Andrew United Methodist Church Feeding the Community–Body and Soul
St. Paul-Maumelle UMW SPUMW Community Outreach
Waldron United Methodist Church Food Pantry / Covid Sanitizer Supplies
For Volunteers:

  • Recruit younger volunteers to help with the distribution knowing that many of our traditional volunteers have greater risks for complications from the coronavirus.
  • Screen volunteers, asking questions about symptoms and taking temperatures where possible.
  • Schedule shift work with no more than 10 volunteers in one space at a time.
  • Set up stations so that volunteers stay 6 feet apart. Tape on floors will provide a visual clue.
  • Use gloves, masks, gowns, and wash and/or sanitize hands often.

For Distributions:

  • Keep times of distributions limited to certain hours.
  • Employ drive through distributions where neighbors do not have to leave their car.
  • Wear gloves and other protective gear as available to hand off – wiping the gloved hands with sanitizer in between clients.
  • If not able to offer drive-through, then set up as close to the door as possible, limiting the number of guests to approach at one time and demarcating places to stand. Use a table to pass food to the neighbor, either inside or outside.
  • Take information for any reporting needed verbally; do not have neighbors share pens in order to report.
  • There should be no congregating. All meals should be packed to-go.