Shopping For Groceries

Shopping For Groceries

Salvation Army begins new summer food program


About 65 families are signed up to shop the shelves and refrigerators at the Salvation Army’s new Client-Choice Food Pantry, which opened June 1.

The Salvation Army of Northwest Arkansas provided more than 106,356 meals to adults and children last year.

However, married duo Ashley and Josh Robinett, NWA area commanders for the Salvation Army, said they saw the need for a better, more dignified way for families to access food during one of the toughest times of the year.

Guests and staff visit following the opening of the Fayetteville Client-Choice Food Pantry in Fayetteville.

Many children, parents and teachers look forward to the leisure time of summer but for many in Northwest Arkansas, summer means higher food insecurity. About 40 percent of students at Fayetteville Public Schools qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, according to the district.

In Northwest Arkansas, an estimated 705 people are homeless, an increase of 152 percent since 2007, according to the 2017 homeless census in Washington and Benton counties. About 56 percent of those are younger than 18.

The pantry opened at 219 W. 15th St. after months of work and with the help of a Walton Foundation grant and local partnerships that include the School District, NWA Food Bank, Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary and Arvest Bank.

“We realized not only do kids need feeding in the summer, donations are basically not existent in the summer. Salvation Army is one of our food partners. We believe in giving to them. We know it’s going to help this situation,” said Karen Gray, vice president of marketing for Arvest.

Families will be allowed to shop each Friday until Aug. 10 for a week’s worth of food. The pantry will be stocked with options that can be easily prepared for breakfast and lunch.

“The new pantry, it wasn’t just a transformation of the way it looks, it’s a transformation of our model. The families come in and shop, and the goal behind that is to provide dignity,” Josh Robinett said. “It’s also a good practice of stewardship, because if we give them something they may have a dietary restriction or don’t have a way to prepare that food, they may throw it away. So now they can come in and shop for what they need, and it helps to eliminate food waste as well.”

“I know what my kids will and won’t eat,” Ashley Robinett added as she pointed to the diverse options of canned, refrigerated and frozen foods such as soy milk, peanut butter, cereal, vegetables and waffles.

Families with children who are receiving free or reduced-price lunches through the School District were eligible for the summer program.

Captains Josh (from left) and Ashley Robinett, Northwest Arkansas area commanders, visit with RoAnna McDaniel following a ribbon cutting for the opening of the Fayetteville Client-Choice Food Pantry at the Salvation Army of Northwest Arkansas’ Area Command in Fayetteville.

Washington County residents who aren’t already signed up for the pilot program can receive food boxes throughout the week by appointment, Josh Robinett said.

Sara Blickenstaff, a School District social worker, helped find families for the pilot program. Transportation doesn’t always come easy for the clients the pantry is designed to serve, and she’s glad the pantry is close to a bus stop and at the well-known Salvation Army location, she said.

The summer program is only available in Fayetteville this year, but Josh Robinett said he hopes to expand, especially to Springdale, if the program proves to be successful.

Salvation Army shelters are open 365 days a year and are open to men, women and families. They provide free emergency shelter and meals to individuals in Fayetteville and Bentonville.


Summer Pantry Program

• Volunteer or host a food drive: Contact Jennifer Brown at (479) 521-2151, x103,

• Donate or learn more: Contact Capt. Josh Robinett at (479) 521-2151,

Categories: In The News