Antioch and Fort Smith Police Departments Combat Food Insecurity
Police cars driving through Fort Smith neighborhoods carry boxes of hope, filled with food and resources to connect families in need with community support.
The boxes are the result of a partnership between the Fort Smith Police Department and Antioch for Youth & Family.
Antioch volunteers pack boxes of non-perishable food, which are then delivered to the police department. Officers then collect boxes from the troop room and put them in their vehicles.
When they encounter households in need during their patrols, officers give families the food boxes, which include contact details for Antioch so they can receive perishable foods, such as produce and meat.
Charolette Tidwell, director and founder of Antioch for Youth & Family, highlighted the partnership as an example of community collaboration and problem solving.
“During the pandemic, they (the Fort Smith Police Department) encountered the multitasking environment that Antioch lives in every day,” Tidwell said, describing how officers went above and beyond their job description to help. those who needed it.
The food box partnership between the gendarmerie and Antioch started in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. The department assisted Antioch with traffic control during his food distributions at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.
Antioch delivers 40 boxes per month to the department and FSPD requests additional boxes as needed.
During the recent winter storm that hit Fort Smith on February 3-4, the FSPD and Antioch worked together, along with Evangel Temple, to provide food to families unable to leave their homes.
Tidwell said 74 families were able to receive food through department support, in addition to the 2,285 people who came to the weekly food distribution in Antioch the day before the storm.
Tidwell said the program and the partnership with the FSPD will continue to help families in crisis.
Food as a base
By putting food directly into the hands of officers, the FSPD-Antioch partnership reaches people at the point of crisis, providing a source of hope in a dire situation.
Police Captain Daniel Grubbs said officers feared the lack of food was linked to an upsurge in violence.
“As a police agency, we knew food insecurity was a concern because so many people were being laid off or your restaurants were closed,” Grubbs said. “We were really concerned that food insecurity was driving some of your violent crime, some of your domestic violence rates.”
At the start of the pandemic, “we really saw an increase in criminal domestic assaults,” Grubbs said.
According to National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justicethere was an 8.1% increase in incidents of domestic violence in the United States at the start of the pandemic in early 2020.
A study published in “Public Health Nutrition” found “higher risks of intimate partner violence among those who report more severe food insecurity” and those who escape abusive situations “often lack the ability to acquire food because they cannot afford it due to their precarious financial situation. status.”
Grubbs said the department saw a decrease in felony domestic assaults from the 60th to 80th percentile down to the 30th percentile after launching the food box program and the food patrol initiative delivering food to families in need.
“I like to think that when we implemented the two together, I have to believe there was some kind of influence,” Grubbs said.
The impact of food goes far beyond filling an empty stomach. Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, developed a hierarchy of needs, describing how a person must have their basic needs met before achieving health in other areas of life, including relationships, self-esteem and the goal.
Referencing this concept, Tidwell said, “Before you can get there, on a dream level…basic needs must be met…have food and water to survive.”
“When we downplay these two areas, we compromise individuals,” Tidwell said.
Tidwell also referenced a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Now I believe we should do all we can and seek to lift ourselves up by our own boots, but it’s a cruel joke to tell a man without boots that he should lift himself by his own boots.
Real success is when people have those basic needs met, Tidwell said, which “requires community effort.”
Serve the community
The food box program and partnership with Antioch is one of the department’s many community policing initiatives, including Food Patrol – which delivers sandwiches from area churches to children and families in apartment complexes in low income.
Grubbs said the police are doing more than enforcing the law.
“A lot of people just think our main goal is crime prevention, crime control, but it’s about partnering to take care of your community and solve problems,” Grubbs said. “If food insecurity is a problem and we have any way to try to alleviate or improve it for any family, by any means…if there is anyone who needs food, we have ways to help them.”
The food boxes in the FSPD patrol cars remind Grubbs of the stuffed animals and blankets he received as gifts when he was a patrolman.
“That’s how you see the evolution of the services we’re able to provide and just the mentality of thinking outside the box,” he said. “The whole concept of community policing is about partnering with whatever resources you have in the community, and I think we’re showing how we do it.”
How to get help
For emergencies, dial 911. Anyone experiencing abuse, domestic violence, or other crises, including suicide, can call the Crisis Response Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1 -800-359-0056.
Resources are also available by calling 211 or visiting www.arkansas211.org.
Antioch for Youth & Family is hosting a weekly “Pop-up at the Curb” at 10 a.m. Wednesdays at 1420 North 32nd St. Those in need can also call 479-459-0669 for additional assistance.