Wal-Mart recently awarded the EAST Initiative, a national education non-profit organization, a $60,000 grant to continue developing projects to address health and wellness issues, especially relating to hunger in northwest Arkansas. The sophistication of the projects allows students to engage in a social issue to solve real world problems. Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) classrooms challenge students to identify community needs and work together to meet those needs by utilizing innovative technology.

"The EAST program is being implemented at Sylvan Hills High School, Jacksonville High School and Middle School, North Pulaski High School and North Little Rock High School East Campus and North Little Rock High School West Campus," according to East Initiative Staff member Blake Welch. "The NLR High School East Campus is part of a growing Community Garden project that has generated partnerships in the community."

EAST students actively collaborate with community partners to identify gaps in resources. EAST is partnering with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement as part of the National Service Project focusing on health and wellness. Examples of projects supported by this grant to fight hunger include aeroponic, aquaponic and hydroponic greenhouses and community gardens to supply fresh food to local cafeterias.

"We are so appreciative of the continued support we receive from Wal-Mart," said Angela Kremers, Senior Director of Corporate Strategy at EAST. "This will allow EAST to serve as a catalyst for youth to take action through student-driven solutions."

A study completed at the University of Central Arkansas found that EAST students complete over 1.5 million service hours each year with an economic impact of over $15 million. "Students are empowered to expand and explore projects and partnerships for lasting change in their community," said Matt Dozier, EAST President and CEO.