Engage AR’s Juneteenth Summit

Author: Lily Berry

Early last week, two of the Be Mighty Americorps VISTAs, Megan Bellfield and Lily Berry, spent two days in Petit Jean learning about holding constructive conversations, pitching themselves to future programs, and meeting Americorps members from across the state of Arkansas.

Though only a short hour’s drive from the Central Arkansas Library System, Petit Jean seemed to belong to an entirely different world than downtown Little Rock. There, nature sprawled beyond the sightline, providing the perfect environment for the VISTAs to meet and grow together. The retreat took place at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, which is perched over a picturesque valley overlooking the natural state in all its glory. The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute “develops programs that create sustainable and positive change to benefit the quality of life of all Arkansans.” Bellfield and Berry attended the “Beyond Civility” program, led by Heather Southard. The Beyond Civility program follows the Winthrop Rockefeller ideal of collaborative approaches to create transformational change by teaching participants how to engage in challenging conversations and work toward lasting solutions. The program emphasizes mutual understanding and empathy as pathways toward constructive discussion, especially when it comes to difficult or divisive subjects. Bellfield and Berry practiced asking questions with the intent of understanding, rather than (often unconsciously) inserting an opinion.

After a full day of personal and professional development, the group of 18 Americorps members in attendance split up into groups for a team building exercise including pirates, pizza, and pitching. Each group competed for glory and prizes, seeking to make the best pizza and advertisement based on their theme: cowboys, pirates, or firemen. Megan Bellfield’s Howdy Pizza Co. (representing the cowboys, of course) came home with first place, narrowly beating Lily Berry’s Spectacul-ARRGH Pizza (representing the pirate faction).

Taking advantage of the beautiful scenery, perfect weather, and Rockefeller resources, Bellfield and Berry toured the property on bikes reserved for guests. They met some of the cows living on the land, explored the farmstead, and encountered a few surprisingly difficult hills! Of course, they couldn’t turn in for the night without a s’more and walk to the breathtaking scenic overlook on the property.

The retreat would not be complete without discussing the reason for the season: Juneteenth. Participants enjoyed a lovely presentation from Clarice and Kwami Abdul-Bey, representatives of the Arkansas Peace and Justice Memorial Movement, outlining the history of Juneteenth and its significance to us, both as Americorps members and American citizens. With a spirit of service and connections across communities, the Americorps members designed and pledged their time to service projects in their fields to celebrate and honor Juneteenth this year. Whether

they chose to donate blood, organize meetings with their elected officials, or spend some extra time in the community, these Americorps members will be serving their communities with pride this Juneteenth.

This summit in Petit Jean provided Megan Bellfield, Lily Berry, and all of the participants with an incredible opportunity for personal and professional growth that they will be able to

implement in their service sites. Our Be Mighty representatives returned to Little Rock refreshed and ready to better serve their communities, having learned how to engage in complex dialogue, advocate for themselves, and build relationships across the state

Summer 2021 Meal Schedule and Locations

Summer Meals start June 1, 2021 and are FREE for kids 18 years old and younger. Summer Meals end August 14, 2021.

Monday-Saturday| 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  

Library locations:

  • Children’s Library and Learning Center located at 4800 W. 10th St.  
  • Dee Brown Library located at 6325 Baseline Dr. 
  • Fletcher Library located at 823 N. Buchanan St.|Fletcher will serve meals from 4:00-5:30 p.m. M-S
  • Main Library located at 100 Rock Street.   
  • Maumelle Library located at 10 Lake Pointe Dr., Maumelle 
  • McMath Library located at 2100 John Barrow Rd.|McMath will serve meals from 4:00-5:30 p.m. M-F and Sat. from 11:00-12:30 p.m.
  • Nixon Library located at 703 W. Main St., Jacksonville 
  • Rooker Library located at 11 Otter Creek Ct.
  • Sanders Library located at 10200 Johnson Dr., Sherwood  
  • Terry Library located at 2015 Napa Valley Dr. 
  • Williams Library located at 1800 Chester St. 

Monday-Friday

Non-library locations:

Feed First USA located at 6124 Baseline Rd. |Breakfast & Lunch: 10:00AM -11:00AM 

Autumn Parc Apartments  located at 43 Warren Dr. |Breakfast & Lunch:10:00AM-10:30AM 

Colonial Parc Apartments located at 5813 Baseline Rd. |Breakfast & Lunch: 10:45AM-11:30AM 

Villa De Cancun Apartments located at 5300 Baseline Rd. |Breakfast & Lunch: 11:40AM-12:15PM 

Terra Vista Apartments located at 4811 Terra Vista Cir. |Breakfast & Lunch: 10:00AM-10:45AM 

Spanish Jon Apartments located at 5001 W. 65th Street. |Breakfast & Lunch: 11:00AM-11:30AM 

Residence at Wakefield located at 6600 Lancaster Rd.| Breakfast & Lunch: 11:40AM-12:15PM 

Southern Pines Mobile Homes located at 9500 Heights Rd.| Breakfast & Lunch: 11:30AM-11:50AM 

Spanish Willow Apartments located at 7510 Geyer Springs Rd.| Breakfast & Lunch: 10:00AM -10:30AM 

Spring Valley Apt. located at 8701 I-30| Breakfast & Lunch: 10:40AM-11:15AM 

Whispering Hills Mobile Homes located at 11500 Chicot Rd.| Breakfast & Lunch: 11:25AM-12:15PM 

The Impact Center located at 5705 W 65th St. |Breakfast & Lunch: 10:00AM-10:45AM

Meet Jasmine Zandi, Be Mighty Little Rock Coordinator

Meet our Canadian, Iranian, American, Hendrix Class of 2020 Alumna, and new Be Mighty Coordinator Jasmine Zandi. Hailing from Ottawa, Canada, Zandi has become one of Little Rock’s brightest young leaders to fight the good fight of providing sustainable access to nutritious and affordable food. 

Her odyssey to Be Mighty Little Rock started in Conway, Arkansas at Hendrix College where she majored in French and International Development & Sustainability. 

“The summer after my freshman year at Hendrix, I had the opportunity to work with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance as a No Kid Hungry Youth Ambassador” said Zandi. “I’ve always loved food and kids, so this seemed like the perfect fit.” Little did Zandi know that she would become invested in the anti-hunger community in Little Rock and around the state. 

At Hendrix College, Zandi had the opportunity to study Political Science in France for a year, making her fluent in three languages—English, French, and Farsi. Her time abroad gave her insight on hunger around the globe. Zandi explained, “Hunger is not isolated to the United States. Some countries have much better programs in place to help their citizens, but the problem is quite large. It is quite daunting to think about, but I am motivated by the things I can do in my local community.” Getting involved in her local community is exactly what she did. 

After graduating from Hendrix in the spring of 2020, she became an AmeriCorps Service member at the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance (AHRA). AmeriCorps is a federal public service program that encourages volunteerism to fill needs within the community. At the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, Zandi learned that the issue of hunger is not only large, but it is also incredibly multi-faceted. She stated, “we cannot successfully fight hunger if we are not also advocating for affordable housing, SNAP, public health, and environmental sustainability.” Her experience at AHRA spring boarded her into Be Mighty Little Rock. 

Zandi shared, “the wonderful folks at the Alliance, who encouraged me to continue my passion for hunger advocacy in Arkansas, thought I should apply for this role.” Since joining the Central Arkansas Library System team, Jasmine has led free food box distributions and helped produce meal kits for cooking demonstrations. However, Zandi has realized that there are still plenty of people unaware of Be Mighty. She shared, “considering we are offering FREE meals, folks seem hesitant to take advantage of resources like Be Mighty. Outreach is an area in which I hope we can make significant progress in the next year. I want everyone to know about the range of resources available throughout the city of Little Rock.” 

The new coordinator plans to measure Be Mighty’s success similarly to former coordinator, Kay Kay DeRossette. Zandi shared, “Kay Kay has mentioned this before, but we aren’t so much focused on numbers, because numbers do not paint a holistic picture of hunger in Little Rock. We could say we doubled the number of meals served, but is it because we had appropriate outreach strategies, or because need grew exponentially? Instead, long-term partnerships, especially those that are wide-reaching, will be much more impactful for the local community.” 

Zandi has a big job to do. Fortunately, she has good habits to keep herself focused and Be Mighty on track. She takes care of herself by practicing mindfulness. Whether it is going for a walk, talking to a friend, turning the phone off or reading a book, Zandi tries to practice good habits to keep herself going. She also has the support of a loving family. Her brother Hameed, 17, graduates Central High an entire year early with the class of 2021, her mom is a research scientist, her dad works in IT, and who can forget their family shih-tzu Emma,14, who she loves to visit. They are in her corner and so is Central Arkansas Library System. Welcome to CALS, Jasmine! 

P.S. Happy Birthday, Jasmine!  

April’s Resource Round Up

This Earth month, we learned invaluable information from our Little Rock community about practical sustainability. Thanks to our friends at The Root Cafe and Arkansas Potluck Rescue, we were able to compile a list of resources that nurture you and the community.

Below is a list of local Farmer’s Markets that are open this Spring! Can’t make it in-person? No worries, the Arkansas Local Food Network offers online shopping for locally sourced produce.

Are you a SNAP recipient? According to Arkansas Human Services, you are eligible to participate in The double-up food bucks program. “Food Bucks allow SNAP clients to receive a dollar-for-dollar match, up to $20 per market day, to buy fruits and vegetables. You get two for the price of one.” Here is the list of Farmer’s Markets and grocery stores that participate in the double-up food bucks program.

Market  Day(s)/Time/Seasons  Location 
Bernice Farmers Market  Sunday 10 AM-1 PM  
Open April-October
1401 S Main St, Little Rock, AR 72202 
Hillcrest Farmers Market  

Saturdays year-round 
7 A.M.-10 A.M. 
*abbreviated hours.
Spring-Summer hours are 7 AM to Noon.
October to April 8 AM to Noon 
2220 Kavanaugh Blvd, Little Rock, AR 72205 
Me and McGee Market  

Wednesday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM 
Thursday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM 
Friday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM 
Saturday: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM 
Sunday: 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM 
Mon-Tues: Closed 
10409 US-70, North Little Rock, AR 72117 
Arkansas Local Food Network (online/in-person)  Saturday 10 AM-12 PM  
Shop online here
509 Scott St, Little Rock, AR 72201 
Bramble Market  

Wednesday, 9AM–6PM 
Thursday, 9AM–6PM 
Friday, 9AM–6PM
Saturday, 9AM–4PM 
Sunday, 1–4PM 
Mon-Tues: Closed   
9325 Ferndale Cutoff Rd, Little Rock, AR 72223 
The Curve Market  

Monday: Closed 
Tuesday: 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM 
Wednesday: 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM 
Thursday: 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM 
Friday: 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM
Saturday: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM 
Sunday: 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM  
15235 Hwy 165 Scott, Arkansas 72142 
Downtown Little Rock Farmer’s Market  
Opens May 1, 2021 
Saturday, 7 am – 3 pm from May through September 
400 President Clinton Ave, Little Rock, AR 7220 

Buying local produce is important and so is managing food waste. As a community, we can continue to reduce food waste by looking to Arkansas Potluck Food Rescue for guidance. “APFR’s operating model is to recover food from commercial kitchens like restaurants, caterers, grocers, hotels, and hospitals. They provide recovered food to hunger relief agencies so that they can better serve their constituents.” Read Arkansas Potluck Food Rescue’s 2020 annual report here and how you can cut down on food waste.

Our Pandemic Journey

March 2021 marked one year since we started to feel the drastic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has revealed that early action is pertinent for managing health crises. Many Americans were shocked to witness the fragility of our healthcare system and how unprepared our government leaders were during a time of crisis. Throughout the year, misinformation and disinformation was rampant, quality of treatment and the death toll highlighted disparities in healthcare due to race and income, jobs were lost, and businesses closed, and we saw an uptick of racialized violence towards Asian Americans in part due to the former president’s continued use of the term “China virus.” The country was in trouble. However, states, cities, and organizations, including Be Mighty, took action to provide some normalcy and continue supporting the community during challenging times. 

The spread of COVID-19 has impacted Be Mighty’s meal service, community engagement, and strategic initiatives. However, to embrace the new normal, Be Mighty committed to virtual nutrition education, socially distant food distributions, and consistently provided readily available meals at library branches. 

April of 2020 was our busiest month in terms of meals served. We served a combination of breakfast, lunch, and supper, with a total of 19,968 meals served that month. Between the months of March and August we served between 12,000 and 20,000 meals each month. September to December of 2020 required us to rethink our outreach. Most students were starting school virtually, which led to a substantial drop in the number of meals served. However, meal sites remained open, even during the deadliest seasons of the pandemic. 

To reach more families, we partnered with Well Fed Arkansas and hosted food box distributions in November and December. Each produce box contained 30 pounds of fresh food along with easy healthy recipe sheets.. With the help of our dedicated volunteers, we were able to distribute 550 boxes of fresh food to Little Rock families. The food distribution was a successful way for us to provide immediate support to the community. We continued to partner with organizations in the community during the holiday season. The restaurant, @ The Corner donated several family-style meals to low-income families during Thanksgiving. 

Our community outreach did not stop after the holiday season! In January 2021, we were able to host a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Virtual program to inform Little Rock youth about the importance of civic engagement. On January 18, 2021, the virtual event streamed via Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook Live. The first one hundred people to register received a free copy of Congressman John Lewis’s “March: Book 1” illustrated by North Little Rock native Nate Powell, who joined us for the virtual discussion. He discussed his career as an illustrator and his relationship with the late Congressman Lewis. We also learned from Little Rock’s public service leaders Mayor Frank Scott Jr., City Director Antwan Phillips, Senator Joyce Elliott, Chief Education Officer Dr. Jay Barth, and Arkansas Peace & Justice Memorial Movement co-directors Kwami and Clarice Abdul-Bey. As part of the event, students also had the opportunity to participate in a national service meet and greet that introduced them to AmeriCorps State, VISTA, and National Civilian Community Corps. This event was a success. We reached over 200 youth in the city and collaborated with the Little Rock School District, Mount St. Mary Academy, Episcopal Collegiate School, Pulaski Academy, and Catholic High School to increase student attendance. 

In the month of January, we also welcomed our first Farm Corps member. Farm Corps is an AmeriCorps program with the purpose to confront food insecurity and strengthen communities through farming, outreach, and teaching. Our Farm Corps member, Katie Matthews, will help us with gardening projects and farm education curriculum such as Growing My Plate. Growing My Plate is a 6-week course designed to connect students to where their food comes from, build enthusiasm for fruits and vegetables, and give them confidence to make their own healthy dishes at home. The goal of the program is to connect students with the garden and inspire them to cook and prepare healthy food at home. 

The last year has been tumultuous. To honor the lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, former Be Mighty Coordinator Kay Kay DeRossette joined Mayor Frank Scott Jr. and others from around the city on March 12, 2021, to commemorate one year of partnering for pandemic relief. During the event, city leaders paused for a moment of silence to honor all the community members that are no longer with us. We also celebrated the sense of community that was created through pandemic relief programs, which included food distributions. It was clear that there are many people in Little Rock who care for one another and are looking forward to the days to come—when more people are vaccinated, and the virus is no longer a threat. View the entire ceremony here.  

Summer Meal Service 101

A meal site is a place in the community where children receive meals in a safe and supervised environment. Sites may be in a variety of settings, including schools, libraries, parks, community centers, health clinics, hospitals, apartment complexes, churches, and migrant centers. Sites work directly with sponsors. The meal site is responsible for supervising the kids on site and providing enrichment activities after school, during the summer, or on weekends.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a federally-funded, state-administered program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reimburses providers who serve free healthy meals to children and teens in low-income areas during the summer months when school is not in session.

REturning Sponsors

For returning sponsors, the 2021 Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) Online Refresher Course is now available as an on-line only training on the Special Nutrition Program (SNP) website. Once you log into your account, click the link here for training instructions. The Department of Human Services is also hosting a SFSP Zoom Town Hall on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, from 4:30pm to 5:30pm. They are requesting that any questions you would like discussed during the town hall meeting to be submitted by on Friday, February 26, 2021 to Stephanie Clowers stephanie.clowers@dhs.arkansas.gov and/or Sharon Hagen Sharon.hagen@dhs.arkansas.gov These questions can be pertaining to your program in general or concerning FFY 2021 Summer Food Service Program. a  Click here to register for the Town Hall meeting.  

New Sponsors

For new sponsors, the Arkansas Department of Health is having a Food Safety Training on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. via zoom. This training is required in order to become a meal site sponsor. Click here to register.  

To Become a Site

If you would like more information about serving summer meals under an existing sponsor, contact our Project Coordinator Kay Kay DeRossette by e-mailing kderossette@cals.org or calling 501-918-3016.

Meet your coordinator Kay Kay DeRossette

Standing at only 5 feet and 2 inches, Kay Kay DeRossette is the muscle behind Be Mighty Little Rock. A fifth-generation native of Vicksburg, Mississippi, DeRossette went to the same Catholic school from pre-K to senior year. In her small town, everyone knew everyone.

Her journey to Be Mighty Little Rock is a bit out of the ordinary, starting with the fact that she majored in Exercise Science at the University of Mississippi.

“When I started college, I thought I wanted to be in the healthcare field,” DeRossette said. “I tried pharmacy then switched to pre-nursing. Ole Miss does not have a nursing school at the main campus in Oxford, and by the time I got ready to apply to nursing school I had fallen in love with main campus life. I decided to switch my major to Exercise Science with the goal of completing an accelerated nursing degree. But I never applied to nursing school.

Fortunately, DeRossette’s campus involvement aided her transition into the nonprofit sector. Her most stellar experience was an internship for The Green Grove Campaign with the Office of Sustainability at Ole Miss. This became a three-year project and ultimately a permanent fixture on campus that is still in operation today. The campaign increased ecological awareness, improved education around football game-day recycling, and eventually led her to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

DeRossette explained the project with nostalgia. “The Environmental Protection Agency hosted a game-day challenge where colleges and universities reported diversion rate for one football game.” [Diversion rate measures how much waste avoids landfills and becomes reusable or compostable –ed.] “The University of Arkansas was the only SEC school to rank in the top ten. I was impressed with their abilities to divert waste on game day and saw them as a leader in the south. My co-curricular experiences in undergrad led me to pursue a master’s in Higher Education and graduate certificate in Sustainability from the University of Arkansas.”

Her time at the University of Arkansas was well spent as she worked in the Center for Community Engagement as the Food Programs Graduate Assistant. She was able to successfully support student leaders from the Full Circle Campus Food Pantry and Razorback Food Recovery program. Together, they were able to recover 50,000 pounds of food from campus dining halls.

After graduating from the University of Arkansas, DeRossette was hired as a Feeding America: Child Hunger Corps member at the Arkansas Food Bank in Little Rock. She values what she learned there. “Arkansas Food Bank was a great experience and where I was first introduced to federal nutrition programs. I also learned a lot about nonprofits and the Feeding America Network.”

Sitting in her office with décor in sharp purple, green and blue for Be Mighty Little Rock, DeRossette enthusiastically shared how she became the engine behind the anti-hunger campaign.

“The City of Little Rock had received a grant to create an anti-hunger campaign. With this grant, the city led a partnership including the Central Arkansas Library System, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, and the Little Rock School District to launch Be Mighty Little Rock.”

“A friend heard the advertisement for this position on the radio one morning and told me they thought it would be a good fit for me—I decided to apply,” she said. “I was on a run one day and got a call in the middle of the run offering me the position.”

Her acceptance of the position was a good thing for Little Rock. Seldom does a coordinator gracefully wear so many hats and count it all as joy. With her infectious smile and calm demeanor, DeRossette shared what roles bring her the most satisfaction as well as difficulty.

“I enjoy visiting meal sites, meeting site coordinators, and observing meal service in action. Seeing families participate in our programs is the most rewarding part of this job. I get stressed if something goes wrong with a delivery, or if a volunteer that we had scheduled to work meal service does not show up. The day-to-day logistical stuff can bring stress, but it’s an important part of the program.”

While day-to-day operations can be hectic, it’s Be Mighty’s potential that keeps DeRossette invested and engaged. She feels that this potential for creativity and innovation grounds her. However, there have been hard truths she has had to both learn and accept in this industry.

“There is always going to be more work that can be done, or things that can be improved,” she said. “I try identifying resources to implement positive change one step at a time, rather than getting bogged down by trying to alleviate poverty and save the world. I ask myself, what can I do to make things better today? Then I try to do it.”

If one person can’t save the world, how do they measure success? While data might be the most obvious choice, DeRossette believes that data does not always tell the entire story. An increase in program participants is a major win but not the only objective. DeRossette also measures success through partnerships.

During the 2019-2020 school year, Be Mighty partnered with the Little Rock School District to sponsor 16 after-school meal sites. This initiative was a major success because local resources and networks were utilized to combat a local problem. Since then, Be Mighty has connected local nonprofits to the Department of Human Resources to help them become USDA meal sponsors.

Be Mighty Little Rock’s goals for the 2020-2021 school year still include connecting families with meals, but now it’s time to consider expanding meal sites, adding screening and referrals, and focusing on meal quality. DeRossette is passionate about these efforts.

“Providing complete meal coverage is a goal for 2020. This means having various locations serving meals at different times and days in target neighborhoods,” she said. “Another goal is to build a food security screening and referral system for our website. This will help us connect families in need to additional resources like SNAP, WIC, transportation, and food pantries. Food quality is one of my biggest passions. I would love to make improvements to the quality of food provided through these programs.”

Nothing is standing in the way of DeRossette’s goals, not even COVID-19. While the pandemic changed how meals are served, it did not stop the entire operation. Before the pandemic, it was required for students to eat their meals while on the premises of a meal site. But after the virus struck, USDA allowed students to grab a meal and go offsite throughout the summer months.

While USDA has not approved a waiver for grab-and-go after-school meals, Be Mighty Little Rock is working to figure out the best solution. Be Mighty will continue to provide meals for the community but also make sure that staff and participants will be safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Be Mighty Little Rock becomes more efficient each year. What would it look like for the campaign to prepare its own meals and expand to other counties? While it might be too soon to tell, DeRossette is working to create more depth for Be Mighty Little Rock. With the support of the Central Arkansas Library System, she is able to implement innovative solutions to solving hunger in our community.