As the holiday season approaches, groups and organizations are stepping up efforts to help feed those in need with special food collections intended to stock the shelves at local food pantries and programs.
According to the East Texas Food Bank website, which has provided food to over 200 partner agencies in 26 counties since 1988, an estimated 18 million pounds of food were distributed in 2011, amounting to 15 million meals. 1 in 4 children, 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 7 seniors in East Texas are "at-risk” of hunger, the site said.
To help fight hunger, students at two Jacksonville ISD elementary campuses have been collecting items as early as last month. A Fred Douglass secretary said that as of Nov. 2, students and staff have collected roughly half of a 2,000-item goal, while at West Side, their counterparts have collected approximately 200 of a 500-item goal. The West Side campus began collecting Nov. 5 and will wrap up the project Nov. 9. The city's other two elementary campuses, Joe Wright and Eastside, will conduct similar drives in the spring.
This month, area Boy Scouts will participate in the annual Scouting for Food Drive. Collection bags will be distributed to area homes on Nov. 10, and troops will return on Nov. 17 to collect donations, which will be taken to centrally located donation sites. For locations of collection sites, contact the East Texas Area Council Boy Scouts of America at 903-240-2144.
The 2nd annual Cherokee County Turkey Trot, a 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Nov. 17 in downtown Rusk, will benefit H.O.P.E.'s Backpack for Kids program. A $20 entry fee includes a T-shirt, with pre-registration through Friday. Forms are located at the Cherokee County Extension office or online at cherokee.agrilife.org. The event is sponsored by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension program.
In Jacksonville, the People Helping People project offers shoppers a 10 percent discount on grocery purchases at Super Gallo Market, with money set aside to provide food for families recommended by businesses and organization taking part in program. Discounts will be collected through Dec. 20, with food distributed Dec. 22. Contact Tony Wilburn 903-372-1346 or 903-589-7654, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Several entities operate food programs that benefit those in need and are collecting non-perishable food items and money to stock their pantries.
H.O.P.E. (Helping Others Pursue Enrichment), a non-profit organization that serves as a clearing house for local churches and agencies that was founded in 1991 by the Jacksonville ministerial alliance, offers several different programs. The Backpack Program provides a backpack of two days' worth of nutritional meals and snacks for students whose primary source of food is the school cafeteria. A Brown Bag Program provides a bag of nourishing staples to qualifying elderly and disabled clients every fourth Thursday of each month. A community kitchen provides people in need a healthy meal three days each week, while once a month, the Manna Pantry provides non perishable, staple food items for qualified applicants. H.O.P.E. is located at 595 S. Ragsdale. For more information about programs, call 903-586-7781.
First United Methodist Church Mission House accepts non-perishable food items, but purchase a bulk of the food for its pantry through the East Texas Food Bank in Tyler. Goods may be brought to the church, located at 226 S. Phillips St., Bullard. The pantry distributes food the third Wednesday and fourth Tuesday of the month, but in light of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, the November distribution has been moved to Nov. 13. For more information, contact Hazel Mason, food pantry director, at 903-521-5711.
The St. Vincent De Paul Society at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church operates a weekly food pantry from 10 a. m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays at 1023 Corinth Road. For more information, call 903-586-4538. While SVDP works with the East Texas Food Bank to procure items, donors can bring non-perishable food items to the parish hall, said secretary Ana Torres. Produce and fresh food items are accepted only if brought in on Thursdays, she said.
The Mission community food pantry at 209 S. Patton distributes food from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, said David Butler, senior pastor at People's Church in Jacksonville, which supports the program. Both perishable and non-perishable food items are accepted, he said. The pantry began operating about two months ago. For more information, contact Crystal Alvarez at The Mission food pantry, 903-589-2911.
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