What’s Really Happening in… Rural Arkansas

We met with the mayor of a town not so far from Little Rock and our visit blew my mind and reset my perspective on small town living. Here’s some facts about this tiny dot on the map:

-Families: 200
-Stoplights: None
-Stores with processed foods in town limits: 2
-Stores with fresh, unprocessed food: Zero
-Community buildings owned by the town: Zero
-Schools: Zero

The mayor, with a weariness caused by many years of little progress, described to us the dire situation as she gave us a tour. She has many projects that are doomed to never start due to lack of funding.

The water pipes underground are completely rusted and have been unsafe for years. The water tower is an ugly shade of rusted orange.

Looking for a building to hold our programs.

We were searching for a suitable building fit to hold our food programs. We walked around the plot that had once been the only school 10 years ago. To this day it remains unused and overgrown. Though the mayor would like to purchase the land to put it to use, that project has been pushed way into the future.

We drove to the the small fire station on main street. It was large enough to host a program but its crew consists of three volunteers living outside of town. There were a few churches but all their pastors live outside town, the mayor explained, so they don’t have office hours during the week for us to host a program.

Josh asked her if the town had any community centers as we walked around a small park on the edge of town. The mayor confirmed that there are none and said the kids have nothing to go to after school.

We finally landed on the town’s library (owned by the county, not the town) which has just enough room to do a mobile food market and education.

The nearest fully-stocked grocery store is 15 miles away

For many of the residents that participate in our monthly program, the fruits and vegetables we provide are the only produce to which they have access. The nearest fully-stocked grocery store is 15 miles away, a fair distance for residents with unreliable transportation. And for a family with low income, fresh produce is expensive and not even on their shopping list.

Even a food pantry is just as far away and, if you have read our article about food pantries, you will know that they are a short-term solution for people with chronic health issues.

The moment I love the most, and the type of help I believe makes the biggest waves, was when Josh suggested the mayor should partner with the Boys and Girls Club to construct a community center in the town.

The mayor seemed to be stuck without a solution. All she needed was someone’s fresh perspective and see a solution.  

You can’t get anything better than a win-win! A local business helping a local community so that they both benefit, that’s neat.

There’s hope for this small town. With some years of external and internal community investment, its residents can have a much better situation.

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