Summer food program kicks off with day of fun
Pearlanna Carron, executive director with Triangle Community Outreach, and Ramone Chisholm, 32, a volunteer with Jireh World Church and Outreach Ministries, get ready to distribute bags of potatoes during Thursday’s Summer Food Program kickoff.
Colorful sno-cones, a water slide, games and playground equipment made for a fun day Thursday at Barbara Jacket Park, where bus loads of children arrived to kick off a food program designed to fill hungry bellies during the summer months.
“I think it is fantastic the number of kids out here today,” Pearlanna Carron, executive director with Triangle Community Outreach, said.
The local charitable group partnered with Texas Hunger Initiative to address the growing problem of food insecurity in the Port Arthur area. The two groups are focusing on youth who, during the summer months, may not have access to a good nutritious meal like they do at school.
In addition to the fun activities, the children were treated to lunch. At the same time, the event was meant to bring awareness to the Summer Food Program, and the 41 sites around Port Arthur that will provide meals during the summer months.
“It is great to see so many children participating,” John Puder, regional manager for Child Hunger Outreach, Texas Hunger Initiative, said. “This is a way to get the word out and a chance to keep children active and eating well during the summer so summer does not have to be the hunger season.”
The Southeast Texas Food Bank also participated in the kick-off, bringing two pallets of bagged potatoes for distribution
Audine Rathban, Food Bank agency relations specialist, said the food bank is starting a new project this year called Texas Sprouts. The program will introduce fresh produce while educating families about the merits of foods that not only taste good but also are high in nutrition.
“It is a healthier diet, and we will be handing out recipes to teach mothers how to cook,” Rathban said. “We try to provide the opportunity for free food to encourage cooking together at home rather than eating out.”
Each week the Food Bank will provide a different type of produce to five sites in each participating city, including Port Arthur.
“This week it was potatoes and next week it will be watermelons,” Rathban said.
Carron said Thursday’s kickoff event was a good way to let the community know how the Summer Food Program will work and where meals will be served.
This summer marks the eighth year Triangle Community Outreach has provided meals for students at no cost.
Students 18 and younger are eligible regardless of their economic circumstances. Though the event is targeting Port Arthur children, no child will be turned away, Carron said.
“No documentation will be needed, no criteria is needed other than you,” Carron said.
The agencies plan to set up about 41 sites where children will be able to get food.
The sites will decide which meal or meals they are going to serve.
Last year, more than 30,000 meals were served during the summer months.
Those who could not attend the kick-off can find out where the nearest center to their home is by call 2-1-1 and stating their address, visiting the website www.summerfood.org, or text FOODTX to 877-877.