FOOD INSECURITY - About 1 in 5 Adults in East Texas are deemed “food insecure”. That means they simply don’t have enough to eat. And that number is even higher for children.
Thankfully there are school lunch programs during the year to at least provide one good nutritious meal during the week while the kids are in school. But when the summer break comes and school isn’t in session, many children can go hungry. This past week, the East Texas Food Bank -- with help from the Junior League of Tyler Texas -- kicked off it’s summer food back pack program which provides food for kids over the weekend. I visited Bergfeld Park in Tyler, Texas last Friday which was a distribution site. Tim Butler, program Services Director with the East Texas Food Bank, explained how the program works.
" It's a 12 week program and so we're kicking it off this week," Butler explained. "We're distributing over 3500 backpacks across that timeframe."
For many children, school breakfast and lunch programs help fill a big part of their nutritional needs but when school is out for the summer break, kids who are food-insecure are often left without adequate food resources.
Buttler says, "not having that resource for three months, that's tough. So with the summer feeding program we (ETFB) addresses breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday and with our partnership with the Junior League, we address the meal-gap for Saturday and Sunday. "
The Junior League of Tyler, Texas has contributed more than $100,000 in supporting the food backpack program over the past few years.
"The Junior League (of Tyler) started helping the summer backpack program back in 2015," explains member Holly Thedford. "It certainly goes with our mission as far as serving our community and helping others and it's really important that the (Junior) League gives back in this way."
The summer backpack program is part of a larger effort by the East Texas Foodbank to help food insecurity.
"Our summer food program runs throughout about 50 sites throughout East Texas," explained Michael Hetrick, Communications Manager for ETFB. "Our summer backpack program is about 10-12 weeks and that's just specific to Smith County right now. Our actual Summer Food Program, ths year it ran from the middle of May and will run all the way to the middle of August.
The Summer Backpack Program is open to ages 18 and younger, there is no cost nor registration required. If you’d like to learn where the next distribution site will be, you can go the the website EastTexasFoodBank.org