Free summer lunch program kicks off in East Texas

TYLER (KYTX) - An East Texas food program is feeding even more kids this summer, kids who worry where their next meal will come from now that school is out. It's a problem one in four Texas children face.  CBS 19's Amanda Roberson explains the East Texas Food Bank is serving 31,000 more meals this year.

City Park in Tyler is one of 56 parks across East Texas that the East Texas Food Bank is using to make sure kids get fed a nutritious meal this summer. 170 lunches were passed out at the park Tuesday afternoon because when school's out so are the lunches so many kids depend on.

It isn't just another day at the park. Destiny Williams has wrapped up the end of her elementary school career but said how she's spending her summer is nothing new. "A couple of my friends, they told me about it, and last year I came and had fun so I decided to come back this year."

She's not alone. Brothers Anthony and Dominick Lockey are also enjoying another year of the summer food program.

"They're good and we don't really have anything to eat at the house," Dominick said. 

"The locations are selected because they're in areas where the need is the greatest," explained Dennis Cullinane, Executive Director for the East Texas Food Bank. "School's out now and to a lot of the children that we're serving today the school lunch is probably their only meal or most important meal that they can get balanced nutrition."

In just 15 minutes more than 150 kids came through the line to pick up a meal. Today's lunch: chicken nuggets, corn, chocolate milk and orange juice and they won't see this meal again for another four weeks.

"It's always changing so that they don't get bored," Cullinane explained.

He said the food bank plans to serve more than 175,000 meals this summer. "We're going to feed a lot more kids this year. Last year, we've got ten more sites than we had last year."

David Kercheval with the Texas Department of Agriculture said nutrition is at the core of these food programs.  "If they don't have nutritious meals there's problems with their health, there's problems with their behavior. They need activities, they need something to stimulate their minds and fill their tummies."

Food for the body, and brain. Destiny said next summer, she wants to be on the other side of the serving line. "This is to help out families and I really like it and next year I would like to volunteer."

Not only did the lunch program kick off Tuesday, so did the City of Tyler's summer playground program. New playgrounds were added to five city parks including one at City Park.

Most of the summer food bank sites will serve lunch Monday - Friday, some even breakfast. Any kid 18 or younger can get a free meal. All they have to do is show up.

The summer lunch food program will continue at most sites through August 24th. For more information on locations, dates, and times, click HERE.


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