Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington recently joined volunteers as they prepared backpack meals for students at the Merrill Community Center.

The Pine Bluff Area Community Foundation awarded the city of Pine Bluff $5,000 to fund the Merrill center’s program to help fight childhood hunger, according to a news release.

Washington said the backpack meals are crucial to student improvements in test scores and positive behavior.

“Through our program, the nutritious food provided enables children to return back to school from the weekend with the focus they need to achieve academic success,” she said. “For some children, lunch at school on Friday may be the last meal that they receive until Monday morning when breakfast is served at school. That’s why sending food home with children to eat over the weekend is so important. We look forward to continuing this program in the future so that young people in Pine Bluff have the resources they need to succeed.”

Details: Mayor’s Office, 870-730-2000, ext. 7.