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Nonprofit feeds children in need

Allen and Rosemary Stimpson started A.R.K.A. Tasty Foods 16 years ago and feed thousands of children every summer.

Nonprofit feeds children in need
October 07
14:05 2020

Many kids depend on their schools for breakfast and lunch, so the summer months present a food insecurity issue.  To help combat this unfortunate issue, almost every day A.R.K.A. Tasty Foods (ARKA) delivers thousands of meals during the summer months to kids all across the Triad area.

ARKA was started 16 years ago by Allen and Rosemary Stimpson. With Mr. Stimpson being a pastor, the couple started the program as a means to raise revenue for the church, so the congregation could spend more time doing ministry work instead of working for the church conference.

After the Stimpsons started to build their program, they began to think about how they could expand to reach a wider audience.  

“We started to think how we could take what we have and still help those around us,” said Kristi Waiters, daughter of Rosemary and Allen Stimpson. “That is when we started to reach out to the rec centers and the YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, and all those places.  

“We asked them if they were getting summer meals and nobody around here was doing it, so we were the first ones to really put our toe in the water and grow so large.”

Initially the program was run out of the church, but the Stimpsons decided to eventually branch out on their own, which involved them finding their own location to cook and package their meals.

The Stimpsons also began collaborating with other organizations, such as Veterans Helping Veterans Heal, as a way to teach new life skills to get people back into the workforce. They continued to grow and reached a level of feeding almost 3,000 children at one point.

“We were cooking it, packaging it and delivering it out of our kitchen every day,” Waiters said. “I would drag my twins out at 4 o’clock in the morning to run these kitchens, but it was fun and it’s only during the summertime and it was a great experience for all.”

Waiters said this year was totally different for ARKA due to the pandemic. First, they had to find a new location to cook their meals, because their previous location had been sold. Secondly, they had to begin earlier than usual.

“This year, with the pandemic hitting, it was so quick and last minute,” she continued. “The Commons had just sold, so we didn’t know if we were going to be able to get the kitchen, so that’s what led us to seeing what vending led us to.”

ARKA connected with K&W Cafeteria to handle the cooking of the meals, while they still handled the delivery of the meals. The partnership was mutually beneficial for both parties, Waiters said.

“That’s been just phenomenal, for us and them, because it took the workload and put it on someone else,” Waiters said about the partnership with K&W. “We went up during the pandemic. Our highest numbers were almost 5,300 kids per day that we were feeding.”

Waiters said there is nothing more humbling in the world than helping a kid to eat.  

“It is so rewarding, because you don’t realize who you help,” she said. “Growing up, we didn’t have a lot. We lived on our family land and we had what we had, but it was all we needed, and I never had to go hungry. To know there are kids out here who might not eat, I can’t imagine.

“I have seen the amount of food that my kid wastes and it bothers me because I know there is a kid out there hungry.  It’s not a lot and I don’t have a lot to give anybody, but if you come to my door, I can feed you. It might not be what you want, but you won’t leave hungry and that’s how we were raised.”

Waiters is pleased with the growth ARKA has seen over the last decade and a half and is happy with where they are.  She wants to reach more people, but doesn’t want to get too big to lose their core mission.

“I don’t know how we move forward and still stay small and deliver a product to the people who really need it,” she said. “I don’t want to lose sight of those people and the path that we are on.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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