West Side church fighting food insecurity boosted with Southeast Texas Food Bank partnership, expanded plan

Published 12:30 am Saturday, April 6, 2024

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The piles of sand on a field adjacent to First Sixth Street Baptist Church represent more than the construction of a metal building, they represent hope and an answer to prayers.

Under the late morning sun surrounded by church family, community members, sponsors and Southeast Texas Food Bank, Rev. Kalan Gardner thanked God for providing the resources and people needed to create Harvest Helpers,

This allows the church to go from distributing food once a month to once a week.

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His prayer at the start of Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a building was a call to celebrate the fact that the church is able to help families, families and those in need.

“So, God that’s what we’re here to do, and that’s what you have placed us on this earth to do,” Gardner said.

The church is located on the city’s historic West Side and is in an area considered a food desert.

The USDA defines a food desert as a tract with at least 500 people or 33 percent of the population living more than a mile (urban areas) or 10 miles (rural areas) from the nearest supermarket, supercenter of large grocery store.

Harvest Helpers

The building will be located at 737 W. 5th St., which is adjacent to the church.

For almost two years Gardner and volunteers have distributed food from there to Port Arthur residents, mostly from the West Side. Sometimes there are so many in need the cars wrap around the block.

Gardner said he would continue the monthly food distribution, which is held from 9 to either 11 a.m. or noon on every second Tuesday of the month, until the new building is completed.

The new building will be large enough to store food and have a refrigerator and freezers.

Arthur Limbrick with Limbrick Construction, who was chosen for the construction, understands the need on the city’s West Side.

That point was driven home when on the morning of the groundbreaking he realized he need some ice; then realized he had a long way to go to get some.

“I believe this Southeast Texas Food Bank building will be a plus, not only for the younger group in the community but the elderly, as well,” Limbrick said. “They don’t have to come as far to get the supplies they need. By having it right here in the local community is a benefit to grow this community.”

Rachel Crowder, chief operating officer with Southeast Texas Food Bank, was born and raised in Port Acres and now, in her job at the Food Bank, she began to look at areas where an impact was needed.

“This place was a very scarce area,” Crowder said. “How many miles do you have to go to get to H.E.B., to a Walmart, a Dollar General, we don’t even have those things close by. So to be able to found a partnership with (Gardner), his church and volunteers has been very instrumental in getting this pantry in the West Side of Port Arthur.”

The pantry is made possible with sponsors or grant givers, she said. Sponsors include LLC Temple Foundation, Well Point formerly Amerigroup, United Way Mid and South Jefferson County.

The new Food Pantry is expected to be complete by July.