An astonishing number of people living in the cities of Hurst, Euless and Bedford do not have enough food to eat — nearly 13,000 children and adults, according to charity group 6 Stones. Determination to address this appalling statistic resulted in The Mayor’s Hunger Challenge, a food drive contest that kicked off in May.
H-E-B schools Superintendent Steve Chapman issued a public challenge to the mayors of the three cities on May 16 asking them to encourage residents to be generous in donating to food pantries this summer — with a Golden Can trophy going to the mayor whose city donates the most food by July 4.
“Historically late spring and summer is a slow time of year for food donations to food pantries,” said Joe Ader, 6 Stones director of compassion ministries. “However, at the very same time the need for food goes up as economically disadvantaged children are out of school for summer break and do not receive the free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch meals that they do during the school year.”
Mayors from each city launched their respective food campaigns by recording a videotaped challenge posted on Facebook and on the websites of the cities, 6 Stones and Mission Central, a Hurst charity involved in the project. Using social media, email blasts, public meetings, posters, press releases and word of mouth, the news about the challenge spread.
A donation from a Euless business, Southgate Constructors, came about after overhearing a conversation about the project at a City Council meeting. The company donated 1,162 pounds of food for the cause.
Ader said the goal for the inaugural event was to collect 4,000 pounds of food, but early indicators pointed toward nearly doubling that goal by the end of the contest. The food will be managed and distributed by the 6 Stones New Hope Center in Bedford and Mission Central in Hurst, Ader explained.
“Both organizations provide food to people in need that come into their facilities each week. Last year the 6 Stones New Hope Center served 13,721 individuals in Hurst, Euless and Bedford. Mission Central serves about 20,000 individuals each year,” he said.
Mac Churchill Auto Mall collected donations from customers and staff that were donated to Bedford. Texas Harley-Davidson in Bedford hosted “Taste of Texas Meets the Mayor’s Hunger Challenge” last month where an impressive amount of food was collected. “You give those Harley guys a worthwhile cause and they certainly come through,” said spokeswoman Natalie Foster. “They have such big hearts.” Foster added that city staff had also generously donated a lot of food.
“It is amazing to see how Bedford residents and businesses have come together for such a worthy cause supporting the kids in the H-E-B school district as well as the seniors that are below the poverty line,” writes Bedford Mayor Jim Griffin.
Euless Mayor Linda Martin volunteered at a vacation Bible school at Euless First Methodist where a weeklong food drive was conducted. “It was a great opportunity to talk to children about the very real problem of hunger in our community,” Martin said.
Euless spokeswoman Betsy Deck said an eye-opener for her was the emphasis on donating heartier foods. “In the past I might have given green beans or fruit. Now I’m focusing more on providing proteins and foods that a family can stretch into a meal,” she said.
According to statistics gathered for the project, 6 percent of senior adults in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford area live below the poverty line and often must make a choice between medication and food. Slightly more than half of students in H-E-B schools receive free and reduced lunch during the school year.
“It saddens me that there are people in the cities of H-E-B that have suffered real hunger. To me this is appalling,” said Hurst Mayor Richard Ward in his videotaped message. In an emailed message he writes, “It’s been an honor for the City of Hurst to be a part of such a great cause, and I love seeing our community come together to help make a difference.”
Hurst spokeswoman Kara Crane said a big donation from Delgado Orthodontics assisted the efforts in her city. Foster said the Bedford Animal Shelter offered 35 percent off adoption prices with a donation of two food items, and their 4thFest celebration collected food as well.
Ader was mum about who was in the lead in the Mayor’s Hunger Challenge at the deadline for this column, but the rumor mill claims that Bedford had a slight lead over Euless with Hurst in third place. Final results will be posted on www.6stones.org/hunger.
“It is not just about food — it is about providing hope and restoring dignity to families in need,” said Ader. “We are here to be a catalyst of hope to people that are in need.”