The Baloney Sandwich Index rose to 164.5 during April, the highest level for the month since the Fort Smith area index began in September 2003.
The BSI is managed by Ken Kupchick, and goes back to September 2003.
Kupchick, director of marketing and development for the River Valley Regional Food Bank, uses three numbers to compute the BSI: the number of sack lunches served by the St. John’s Episcopal Church sack lunch program, the Sebastian County jobless rate and the Fort Smith metro jobless rate. He uses a commonly accepted method to adjust for seasonality.
“Sandwiches served at the St. John's Sack Lunch Program during April 2012 not only set a record for the month, but eclipsed prior year service by nearly 50% as volunteers witnessed a major rise in need,” Kupchick noted in the index report.
The index has a 70% correlation with Sebastian County unemployment numbers signaling a potential jump in the county unemployment rate. County unemployment saw a significant drop from a high of 8.5% in January to 7.6% in March. (April employment numbers are not yet available.)
According to figures released Wednesday (May 2) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the March jobless rate in the Fort Smith area was 8%, down from a revised 9.2% in February and below the March 2011 rate of 8.8%.
The number of employed during March was an estimated 116,735, up from 115,892 during February but almost 5% below the 122,809 employed in the region during March 2011.
Unemployed persons in the region totaled 10,108 during March, down from 11,711 during February and below the 11,778 during March 2011.
Sandwiches served at St. John's during April 2012 totaled 4,855, up compared to the 4,614 in March and well ahead of the 3,268 during April 2011 and the 3,478 during April 2010.
"The most dramatic change in our demographics has been in the increase of children and the number of families coming from neighborhoods away from the downtown area,” said St. John volunteer Jim Horton.
Horton continued, "These are families who are obviously living on the edge and utilize the sack lunch program to supplement their families' food budget."
The record for sandwiches served was 5,505 during January 2012.
Also, the River Valley Regional Food Bank confirmed an increase in April food insecurity.
"The food bank distributed almost 50,000 more pounds of food in April as it did in January,” Kupchick explained. "That's about 165,000 meals in Sebastian County alone."
He said the food bank distributed about 350,000 meals in the eight county area in April. The food bank distributes grocery products to more than 190 not-for-profit groups in eight counties in the Fort Smith metro area.