A local organization is working to make sure that children in this area do not have to go hungry when school is not in session. Children’s Express, an entity of Grand Central Station soup kitchen in Sherman, has been distributing healthy food to children on weekends and through the school year when school is not in session since 2013.
The program targets children who currently receive free or reduced lunch through the Sherman Independent School District.
“A small group began meeting in the Spring of 2012 to study what could be done to feed our hungry children,” Sara Tarvin said. “After months of evaluating numerous programs, we decided to start small and focus on one school.”
Anne Webb and Sara Tarvin are coordinators for the program that began servicing Jefferson Elementary School students during the summer, Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks in 2013.
“Jefferson at the time had an enrollment of 250 with 225 on the free and reduced lunch program,” Tarvin said. “The program was opened to all the students. We averaged a 100 students a week for 11 weeks during the summer of 2013.”
Then in 2014, Washington Elementary School students were added to the program. As of 2015, the program has been opened to all children in SISD elementary schools.
Children’s Express also includes a weekend backpack program.
“Some teachers had spoken to a few board members about children having lunch at school on Friday and returning on Monday not having had anything to eat over the weekend,” Tarvin said. “This prompted us taking action to feed these children. Two of the board members figured that we could feed the children for about $3 each a week with purchasing food from North Texas Food Bank and other donations.”
In February of 2016, Children’s Express began the weekend backpack program at Washington Elementary and Crutchfield and served 120 students. Fred Douglass and Wakefield Elementary schools were added to the program in April 2016 and they serve 240 students.
At the end of the 2016-2017 school year, the weekend program served Wakefield, Sory, Crutchfield, Douglass, Washington,Fairview and ended the year with 420 students in the program.
“We began the weekend program on Sept. 7 [this year] currently serving about 500 students,” Tarvin said. “The weekend program serves Wakefield, Sory, Crutchfield, Douglass, Washington, Fairview. Jefferson and Neblett are being serviced for the weekend by another organization in town.”
Children’s Express receives money from local organizations, private donors, and grants.
“We purchase food through the North Texas Food Bank and local grocers Aldi, Kroger, Albertsons, Brookshires, WalMart, and Sam’s,” Tarvin said. “We are thankful for all donations. We appreciate food donations but we are able to do so much more with cash donation.”
Volunteers help distribute, deliver to the Children’s Express warehouse, pack the bags, drive to deliver, shop, and recycle the cardboard used.
“We have an amazing group of volunteers,” Tarvin said. “The pool of volunteers come from churches, other organizations and some companies encourage their employees to volunteer like Cigna and Texas Instruments. We have at least one volunteer who delivers food for us on her lunch hour. We have volunteers who meet the NTFB truck. The volunteers that we have are willing to do what it takes to get the job done.”
Tarvin said that parents and grandparents sometimes cry when they have picked up food during the summer and spring break, as well as the Thanksgiving and Christmas distributions.
“Parents have told counselors how much they appreciate the help,” she said. “They have also gone off the program when they no longer needed the service.”
Webb said that the program is working to reach as many students as need the service.
“We are blessed because there have been several times when at the end of the year, we have more money than we started with,” she said. “We just want to help more children every year. We just want to meet the needs.”