Fear of hunger grips kids at summer meals program

BY ROD SANTA ANA III

EDINBURG — It’s not something one expects to hear from children in the U.S. — concern about where their next meal will come from.

But that’s exactly what organizers report hearing from youngsters attending the second annual Summer Meals for Our Neighboring Community program in Edinburg.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service program is aimed at low-income children ages 6 months to 18 years who live near AgriLife Extension’s office at 410 N. 13th St., just blocks from the Hidalgo County Courthouse.

“We’ve gained the trust of the kids who come to the program, especially those who attended last year, and some have said they worry about having something to eat,” said Melissa DeLeon, an AgriLife Extension agent for Hidalgo County in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program.

Every Friday this summer, about 30 neighborhood kids come in with their parents for breakfast and lunch – with a side order of educational activities and good advice on healthy living, she said.

“Even though we’d like to alleviate hunger altogether, we simply don’t have the resources,” DeLeon said. “We can only provide supplemental assistance to help decrease the food insecurity of community children.”

DeLeon and her colleagues partnered with several other agencies and businesses to run the summer program, including the Texas Hunger Initiative, a project of the Baylor University School of Social Work. This initiative creates and uses strategies to end hunger through policy, education, research, and community organizing and development.

“The initiative’s statistics show that 20 percent of Texans, or 26 million people, are food insecure,” she said. “That ranks us as second in the nation. And some of them live right here, in the very neighborhoods that surround our AgriLife Extension office.”

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More Information

For more information or to contribute to the program, contact Melissa DeLeon at 956-383-1026 or email Melissa.DeLeon@ag.tamu.edu.