FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) — The University of Arkansas Fort Smith (UAFS) has teamed up with Fort Smith’s Sack Lunch Program to provide meals for students on campus. The Sack Lunch Program in Fort Smith was founded at St. John’s Episcopal Church in 1986. Many churches and civic organizations financially support the program or send volunteers to assist with the mission.
Jean Kolljeski, co-director of St. John’s Episcopal Church Sack Lunch Program, found out about food insecurity on college campuses across the nation by reading a comprehensive study. Soon after, she reached out to Dave Stevens, Dean of Students, to offer the Sack Lunch Program services to UAFS students.
“I think it’s a great addition to our campus, students can’t focus on their academics if they’re hungry. We know students need this. So, focusing on meeting the needs of our students is just the right thing to do.” said Stevens
After communicating with Kolljeski, Stevens was more conscious about the statistics proving the need in our region. He was eager to be able to help students balancing the heavy loads of school, work and meeting their nutritional needs.
“I always want to have new data and statistics together before I give a talk,” Kolljeski explained. “I was watching the world series and doing this research, and I came upon this whole site about food insecurity on college campuses.” Kolljeski was shocked when she read a 50-page study that said 38-percent of college-aged students are relatively food insecure. “Arkansas is the second in the nation in food insecurity,” Kolljeski continued. “It’s a terrible thing, so when I talked to Dave, and he told me about the students who come to his office and tell him about worrying about choosing between food and books, I knew we could help. We started sending lunches to UAFS, and it’s gone off like clockwork. It’s been amazing.”
Students can now pick up a grab-and-go lunch at the Student Welcome Center in the campus center building or the lobby of the Math Science. This will go on on Tuesday and Thursday mornings after 10 a.m., no questions asked.
This will be a first-come, first-served basis with 56 lunches. The sacks will contain peanut butter and jelly, meat or cheese sandwiches, a juice box, and a snack cake. Next to the refrigerator, there will be bowls of fruit and bananas for students welcome to take.
“The thought that so many people are unable to get a good meal every day breaks my heart,, So that’s why we do it.” Said Stevens.
Dave Hawkins, a local school teacher and volunteer with the Sack Lunch Program, helped with this initiative. “She was instrumental in helping us get started,” said Stevens. Lunch preparation is done by volunteers. UAFS Lionheart organization volunteers twice a week in lunch preparations. Transportation has been provided by other volunteers, including Barry Kincannon, a retired local attorney. He helps transport the lunches from the Sack Lunch Program Located 317 North F St., to UAFS.