Summer Vacation? Not from Hunger.

By Becky Volk
Social Media Specialist, Tarrant Area Food Bank

Summer vacation for many Texas school children means reduced access to regular, nutritious meals. According to a recent article published in the Star-Telegram on child poverty in Tarrant County, 26 percent of children do not have access to healthy food. These children often rely on in-school breakfast, lunch, and if their school participates in a dinner program, dinner.

Taking up the fight against child hunger is MaryEllen Brown. As the librarian at Mary Louise Phillips Elementary School in Fort Worth, MaryEllen is witness to how hunger effects children in the classroom. Attention span in children decreases because of hunger, thus affecting their ability to focus. Meanwhile, too many sugary, low-cost food options cause students’ energy levels to spike, then crash.

Connecting with Our Mission

Tarrant Area Food Bank’s child food programs, such as In-School Snacks, After-School Meals and Backpacks for Kids, were created to help children acquire nutritious food options while in school. It was through the collaborative efforts between Mary Louise Phillips Elementary School and TAFB that MaryEllen first became familiar with our child food programs. Through our work together, we ensure children get the nutrition they need to perform at the level they are expected to in school.

Heartened by TAFB’s mission of empowering communities to eliminate hunger by providing food, education and resources through innovation and collaboration, MaryEllen joined Team TAFB. Working part-time last summer with our Food for Kids staff, MaryEllen helped distribute food to summer food service sites.

During the 2016 school year, MaryEllen walked her students from Mary Louise Phillips Elementary over to the TAFB Learning Garden each week where they learned about techniques and tools to grow fresh fruits and vegetables in different types of gardens. These helpful lessons in the garden could be tips the students put into practice at home and throughout their lives.

Fueling Growing Bodies

As we head into summer, Tarrant Area Food Bank is working to reach children who have not entered in to the school system yet. Our efforts include providing WIC (Women, Infants and Children) clients access to fresh produce through our Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program June through August. TAFB works with an area farmer who joins us at designated WIC clinics to distribute fresh vegetables and fruit to expecting mothers and mothers with young children.

TAFB also provides summer meals to children who receive free/reduced price meals during the school year. TAFB is now accepting applications for area churches, apartment complexes, schools and other organizations to host a Summer Meals site. Like our BackPacks for Kids program, SummerPacks offers school children and their younger siblings a bag filled with food and snacks to help tide them through the weekend.

“Child hunger is not just about having access to food, it’s about having access to the right food.” MaryEllen Brown

After 10 years at Mary Louise Phillips Elementary School, MaryEllen’s dedication to her students’ health, their success in school and the fight against hunger, in general, has only increased. In addition to working for Mary Louise Phillips Elementary, MaryEllen now works part-time in our Volunteer Department, greeting volunteers in the Quality Control area of our Distribution Center as they prepare to work their shift.

We are always on the lookout for volunteers and have many summer volunteer opportunities available. Visit our Volunteer page to register today.