FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Twenty-four Northwest Arkansas organizations are banding together with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) to help break down barriers that prevent equitable access to healthy food.

The Northwest Arkansas Food Insecurity Community of Practice (NWA CoP), launched last year by the UAMS Office of Community Health and Research with support from the Walmart Foundation, is guided by a diverse stakeholder advisory board of individuals who are currently experiencing food insecurity or have experienced food insecurity in the recent past.

By sharing skills and experiences, the NWA CoP is cultivating new strategies to address recurring problems related to food insecurity in Northwest Arkansas. Below is a list of participating organizations:

“This group of organizations represents a diverse cross-section of Northwest Arkansas’s food insecurity resources,” said Emily English, DrPH, MPS, assistant professor in the UAMS Office of Community Health and Research. “They bring experience, expertise and dedication to ensuring all of our community members have access to the food they need to thrive.”

Food insecurity is defined as a lack of consistent access to food that is safe, adequate, culturally appropriate and nutritious. It can be a temporary or long-lasting condition. According to Feeding America, more than 13% of households in Northwest Arkansas are food insecure. In Arkansas, 16.6% of households are food insecure, compared to 10.5% nationally.

The organizations that comprise the NWA CoP will work toward reducing food insecurity in Northwest Arkansas by increasing access to SNAP and WIC benefits, improving equitable and inclusive healthy food access; evolving food recovery and distribution models, and helping organizations collaborate to respond to rapidly changing circumstances that lead to food insecurity.

“This community of practice has such a wealth of knowledge,” said Marla Sappington of the Manna Center. “Our hearts and minds are working to help others who don’t have the resources to meet everyday needs. I’m so blessed to be a part of the group, to learn from others and to help create a safety net for our community members.”

For more information about the Northwest Arkansas Food Insecurity Community of Practice and its participating organizations, visit nwa.uams.edu/chr/cop.