GRAPEVINE -- Hundreds of hungry children relied on GRACE this summer to provide meals, fun and companionship as the economic downturn left many low-income families struggling.
This summer, the Grapevine Relief and Community Exchange served an estimated 35,000 meals at seven locations in apartment complexes and mobile home parks in Grapevine.
That tops last year's record of 30,000 meals, a sign to Mark Woolverton, director of development for GRACE, that poverty is increasing in some pockets of the city.
"Families who were on the brink last year, now they need our services even more," he said. "We've seen some significant increases this year. I think more families are out of work."
Feed Our Kids is just one part of what GRACE does. The charity also has a food pantry and thrift store, and helps needy area residents with rent, bills and car payments.
Feed Our Kids meals are served five days a week from the end of the school year in June until school starts Monday.
The goal is to fill the gap for children who get free or reduced lunches in Grapevine-Colleyville schools.
"It comes as a shock to most people: Many of them don't have anything to eat," Woolverton said. "They rely on the schools to feed them breakfast and lunches."
GRACE started Feed Our Kids six years ago by giving food from the pantry to some children in the summer.
It's grown in recent years to the point where churches, service organizations and other groups are called on to help.
The Southlake National Charity League volunteered for six weeks at the Courtyards at Mustang apartments. Mothers and daughters bought and prepared the week's worth of food and played games and water activities with the children.
Audrey Miller of Southlake had a wake-up call when she and daughters Mackenzie, 16, and Allie, 14, served lunch there for a week with the charity league.
She recalls hearing about one mother who said all she had in her kitchen was ketchup and mustard.
In Southlake, Miller said, "we don't even appreciate what we have in our refrigerators. It was one of those moments where you go, 'Wow, that's really sad.' It really hits you how blessed and lucky you are.
"I think that makes a lasting impression for our girls. We live in the Southlake bubble, and sometimes we don't see that."
The people they help are grateful -- and want to know whether they will be back the next week, she said.
"These are just little kids," Miller said. "They depend on GRACE and getting help from where they can to get a leg up."
The Southlake Young Men's Service League, an organization of mothers and sons, has also contributed.
Feed Our Kids would like to add more sites to so children don't have to walk so far. But that takes more resources, Woolverton said.
"It takes a strong community, I think, to make a program like this successful," he said.
Nicholas Sakelaris, 817-431-2231