PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Port Arthur

June 10, 2014

Summer meal program kicks-off

PORT ARTHUR — Barbara Jacket Park was filled with the laughter of children as they took turns at the nearby spray park, played games and had a healthy snack and lunch on Monday.

But this wasn’t a typical day at the park — the fun and food was part of the Summer Food Program Kickoff in the city of Port Arthur.

Triangle Community Outreach, Southeast Texas Food Bank and Port Arthur Independent School District along with the Texas Hunger Initiative were on hand to spread the word. John Puder, child hunger outreach specialist and No Kid Hungry Regional Coordinator of Baylor University explained the importance of the summer food program.

“There are a lot of kids who depend on a free breakfast and lunch and without the summer meal program they would go hungry,” Puder said. “The program offers healthy, nutritious meals which much meet guidelines for children 18 and under.”

Pearlanna Carron, director of Triangle Community Outreach, said they are  in their fourth year of participating in the initiative with the Texas Department of Agriculture.

TCO prepares the meals and takes them to 18 different sites throughout the city including apartment complexes, schools and churches.

“We try to cover the city with two meals a day, breakfast and lunch and a few of the sites are later in the afternoon and offer snacks and supper,” Carron said.

Carron, whose mother is the late Exie Simon, is just one of Simon’s descendants who work to make sure others are fed.

“This is quite fulfilling,” Carron said. “My mom started this. It must run in our veins.”

TCO’s food program kicked off Monday and will continue until Aug. 22, which is the Friday before school starts, she said.

Ethel Harris and her 4-year-old grandson stood in line for a healthy snack.

“I think it’s nice that they do this for the kids,” Harris said. “They need this for the summer.”

Brenda Joubert said the program is good but the locations should be spread across the city. Other suggestions include having more churches involved or hosting the event daily at the park.

John Constancio, director of PAISD school nutrition department, said the district’s program will begin on June 16 at four sites — Memorial High School, DeQueen Elementary, Lee Elementary and Sam Houston Elementary schools.

Children do not need to be attending summer school in order to get a free meal and no paperwork is involved.

“This is special. As a government entity, we’re out here to support the community and this is one of the programs we participate in,” Constancio said.

Jean Kyle, director of purchasing with Region 5 Education Center, food service co-op,  handed out healthy snacks to the groups in attendance.

“This program is highly needed, very necessary program to ensure children eat healthy,” Kyle said.

The Texas Hunger Initiative’s No Kid Hungry Center for Best Practices show that among low income families, only 40 percent report being aware of locations for free summer food and only 17 report their children having received those meals, according to a press release from THI.

There are several ways to locate summer meal sites:

• Visit summerfood.org

• Text FOODTX to 877-877

• Call 2-1-1

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