Where can a kid get a free meal this summer?
The Feed the Kids program returns this summer to make sure thousands of Mansfield Independent School District children don’t fall through the cracks.
Volunteers are needed every Wednesday at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to sort and assemble food bags at the Mansfield Cares building, 150 S. Sixth Ave.
The program will provide enough food for seven breakfasts, seven lunches and various snacks for about 1,100 children a week throughout the Mansfield school district. The program helps children who rely on free and reduced lunches during the school year who won’t have access to that during the summer.
“We’re addressing two problems with Common Ground: children get hungry in the summertime and their reading comprehension goes down,” said Phil Stover, co-chairman of the program.
“We buy and bag the food and we deliver it to the pantries and the pantries deliver it to the families. We supply books for them to read and give them prizes when they read those books. We hope to address both problems that have been addressed to us by the counselors, teachers and administrators of MISD.”
The volunteers who show up at 10 a.m. Wednesday will unpack food from bulk cases and separate them into individual servings on the production table. The crew that shows up at 6 p.m. will bag the food and pack them for shipment to the pantries.
The program starts on May 22.
The community can also help by donating money to Feed the Kids, which helps buy the food. Each bag of food would normally cost about $14 to $16 to buy at the store. Feed the Kids gets each bag for about half that price by buying in bulk.
“Money really helps us because we can buy more for the dollar than you can by going to the grocery store,” Stover said.
The program costs about $80,000 for the summer.
Feed the Kids also benefits from community food drives.
They provide non-perishable food like Chef Boyardee, oatmeal, soups, fruit cups, peanut butter crackers, granola bars and cereal.
The program is supported by the Mansfield Women’s Club, Kiwanis, the Mansfield school district and the city of Mansfield and Common Ground, a network of area churches.
Susan Luttrell, director of missions for First United Methodist Church of Mansfield, said they support the program financially, provide leadership and coordinate transportation and the purchasing of food. The church also supplies volunteers. She’s been involved since the program started in 2007.
“We believe in the program and what it does to ensure children in our community are taken care of for the summer,” Luttrell said. “Between the food and the literary piece of the program, we just think that this is something everyone should be involved in.”
For the reading program, Feed the Kids partners with the Mansfield Public Library, which provides the books for children to read during the summer to keep their reading comprehension sharp. The books are given out weekly when parents come to the pantries to pick up food. Also, children get prizes for completing the books.
The program ensures children won’t fall behind when they come back to school.
Jerry Ritchie, director of missions at Walnut Ridge Baptist Church, said he’s been involved in Feed the Kids for five years and is the past president and a current board member. While Mansfield is an affluent community, there are areas of need throughout the wider Mansfield school district that are served by Feed the Kids.
There are also several Mansfield schools open for summer school programs that serve food to needy children five days a week during the break. But not all children are within walking distance of a school, which is what makes Feed the Kids so important, Stover said.
▪ Donations can be made to Common Ground Network P.O. Box 1049, Mansfield, Texas 76063 or call Phil Stover at 817-709-1174. Put Feed the Kids on the memo line for the check.
▪ Volunteers can show up at the Mansfield Cares Building, 150 S. 6th Ave., Mansfield every 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. every Wednesday through the summer.