23/06/2024

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Arkansas commission to award grants aimed at food desert elimination | The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Arkansas commission to award grants aimed at food desert elimination | The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The Arkansas Minority Health Commission announced Tuesday that it will award four grants of up to $10,000 to organizations aiming to eliminate food deserts.

“Arkansas is now ranked #1 in food insecurity and every county in the state now has at least 1 food desert, so providing these funds to organizations doing this targeted work will certainly be impactful,” Kenya Eddings, the commission’s director, said in a news release.

According to a request for grant applications, those receiving a grant will “develop and produce work towards implementing a comprehensive plan to eliminate food deserts and/or increase access to healthy food in their respective communities.”

The money can be used for “community needs assessments, focus groups and technical assistance,” among other purposes, according to the news release.

Awardees will supply data to the Health Department and participate in three meetings to collaborate with other awardees and track progress, according to the request for applications.

Applicants’ event or activity proposals must have a primary focus related to health, the document says.

According to the request for applications for the food desert grants, the Annie E. Casey Foundation defines food deserts as “geographic areas where residents have few to no convenient options for securing affordable and healthy foods — especially fresh fruits and vegetables. Disproportionately found in high-poverty areas, food deserts create extra, everyday hurdles that can make it harder for kids, families and communities to grow healthy and strong.”

“Arkansas has seen a rapid decline of grocery stores and a similar rapid increase in food deserts around the state,” the document says. “Research shows that food deserts contribute to an increase in the prevalence of heart disease, the number 1 cause of death for all Americans. According to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI), the scope of the problem is enormous in that every county in Arkansas has at least 1 identified food desert.”

A report released in October by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 16.6% of Arkansas households surveyed from 2020-2022 had experienced food insecurity within the past year, the highest percentage in the country.

The study also found that 6.5% of the state’s households experienced “very low food security.” which was defined “where one or more members of a household experience reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns at times in a year because of limited money and other resources for obtaining food.”

The request for grant applications can be found on the Health Department’s website at healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/grant-and-bid-opportunities

Applications for the grant are due on Jan. 4.

My Ly is a Report for America Corps member.