PULASKI COUNTY, Ark. — As kids head back to class, some central Arkansas schools are working hard to help fight hunger.
At the Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD), students have a new fresh variety of food, and it comes at no price.
"I've seen improvement already. I've been here for four years now,” Madeline Jimenez, a student at Mills University Studies High School, said.
Students at PCSSD can choose from tacos, nachos, pizza, fresh fruit and vegetables, salads, wraps, sandwiches: the menu goes on.
"We are trying to provide as many options as possible to make sure they have the proper nourishment,” King Joseph, a PCSSD chef, said.
The extension of free meals for all students and a larger variety of food is opening doors for a lot of children to access school meals.
The Arkansas Food Bank said this is crucial, as the organization works to combat child hunger state-wide.
"Unfortunately we see a lot of kids when they are coming back into the classroom, that their counselors and teachers are noticing that they've lost weight over the summer because they've lost access to those consistent meals,” Sarah Riffle, Chief Development Officer at Arkansas Food Bank, said.
A main goal at PCSSD is to increase meal counts.
On Wednesday Mills High School served 237 meals, with just over 600 students enrolled there.
The district believes if students are satisfied in the cafeteria, that could also improve test scores.
"It's going to be a happy environment in the classrooms. A happy environment all over our campuses at PCSSD,” Joseph said.
While districts tackle hunger at school, the Arkansas Food Bank said the work doesn't stop there.
They are working to expand their backpack program, which would help feed more hungry children during the weekends.
"Our backpack program is in such high demand across our service area that we keep a wait list year-round for schools that have a need in their community,” Riffle said.
If you would like to help feed a hungry child this school year, you can donate to the Arkansas Food Bank’s website by clicking here.