Summer Meals program kicks off; 50 locations planned for PA with daily meals

Published 10:02 am Thursday, June 8, 2017

Who says there’s no such thing as a free meal? On Tuesday, if one were 18 or under and wanted some good grub, all one had to do was show up and ask.

Texas Hunger Initiative and Triangle Community Outreach held their Summer Meals Kickoff Wednesday in Gilliam Circle Park in Port Arthur. The event kicked off at 11 and was intended to raise awareness about the free Summer Meals program, according to Regional Manager for Child Hunger Outreach and No Kid Hungry Regional Coordinator John Puder.

“Summer Meals ensures kids get a healthy and nutritious meal,” Puder said.

Some happy children pose after finishing their meals on the bleachers in Gilliam Circle Park during Wednesday’s Summer Meals Kickoff event in Port Arthur.
Lorenzo Salinas/The News

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According to Puder, less than one-in-seven children receiving free meals through their schools actually take advantage of the free Summer Meals program.

“There’s two reasons kids aren’t taking advantage of it,” he said. “Number one is, the parents are not aware of it. The second reason is transportation — not everyone has transportation to the sites.”

Accordingly, Puder gave two ways in which he and the various groups are addressing the issues.

“One is to raise awareness. Two is to have enough locations throughout Port Arthur.”

Puder estimated there would be nearly 50 locations throughout Port Arthur that would act as sites where children could get free meals. Some would even be located in apartment complexes so the issue of transportation would be eliminated altogether.

“Families can call 211 or text FOODTX to 877-877 to find the closest place where kids can get food,” Puder said.

In addition, the effort to provide free and nutritious meals is a key component of the program, according to Puder.

“We make sure children not only get good meals but also healthy meals,” he said.

Puder mentioned their food was FDA-approved and included healthy selections like fruit, whole grains and reduced fat dairy products like two-percent milk.

“This is so kids don’t lose their brain power and healthy power during the day,” Puder said.

Dallas Baker, volunteer for the Summer Meals program and member of the First Baptist Church in Port Arthur, spoke positively of the program’s mission.

He said Pearlana Carron, the executive director with TCO, brought up the idea of volunteering at the food event and he loved the idea.

“I love this and I love working in the community,” Baker said. “I think this is going to help the children.”

Baker pointed out the merits of nutritious meal options for those who may not always have the choice.

“It’s something nutritious and something to look forward to in the future,” Baker said. “I think it would be even better in the future. The more people get involved, the greater the community will be as a result.”

Baker emphasized the communal aspect of the Summer Meals program as well.

“I come from a time where everyone helped out and everyone is your daddy and momma,” Baker said, adding that everyone in the community helped raise each other and looked out for one another. “And here it’s the same.”

Families can visit, call 211, or text FOODTX to 877-877 to find their nearest Summer Meals location.

No paperwork, registration, or proof of income is required.