I was honored when asked to come alongside Jourdanton Independent School District in their effort to help feed the children of the district. It is called the JISD Food Locker. This program was born last year by Jourdanton High School counselor Marie Fanno. She is a member of the School Health Advisory Council, and after another teacher at the school had mentioned he had encountered a hungry student, she set out to do something about the overall need. She was discouraged to discover that the need is far-reaching, primarily out of parents who are either ashamed at filling out the free lunch application, or they are just above the financial limits. This need often spills beyond the school day and into the weekends, where the school is unable to help. This is where the JISD Food Locker seeks to help.
How the program works is, non-perishable foods like snack packs and microwavable meals are donated, and those who work with the program pack these items discretely into drawstring bags that look like backpacks. They are available at certain locations in the school. From there, a student can stop by the classroom or office where they are kept on Friday, so they can have food for the weekend. Generally, these packs include meals for the day, as well as snacks. If it were a long weekend, extra food is available.
This program can only go as far as those who make donations. And to keep it going, your help is needed. When I was asked to partner up with the JISD Food Locker for my book signing event, I was excited about the opportunity. It also hit home, as I was one of those kids. I was flooded with memories of what it was like growing up as a latchkey child.
My father passed away when I was nine. This left my mother to raise me and my younger sister by herself. We had family and our church, of course, and they helped out as they could, but much of that slipped away as I entered my Junior High and High School years. My mom always did the best she could, and made countless sacrifices, but through medical issues, times were often tough. There were many times where we went hungry.
It was in my Junior High days that I learned to cook. With my mom’s travel time from work, she always got home late, so it was my job to prepare dinner. I believe my love of experimenting was birthed out of this phase of my life. Whatever was in the cabinet or fridge, I would mix together and create a meal. I think my mom stomached many ill-conceived concoctions her 13yr old son created. I can recall once we were low on spaghetti sauce, we didn’t have ketchup, so I tried mustard. All I can say now is, sorry mom.
All kidding aside, I understand that I was blessed with what I did have. Yes, there were times where there was plenty of food available. And yes, there were times where the cupboard was bare, and we went hungry. It was not for long, but there were times where, as a young teen, I did not know where that next meal would come from. Now that I am older, one of my personal priorities is to always have food in the house for me and my family. Even if it is a bowl of Ramen noodles, there is always something. So, it pains me to hear about kids in the situation of not having lunch, or nervous about going home for the weekend because of lack of food.
That is why this program lights a fire inside of me. I desire to help out as many students as possible. And this Community Event is the perfect opportunity to help JISD Food Locker stock up. Especially with the Thanksgiving holiday week coming up. We take it for granted that there will be turkey and dressing on the table. But would you believe that for some, that is merely a dream? It is time to do something about it.
For some, hunger is never an issue, but for others it is an everyday occurrence. Whether it is part of a temporary set back from a parent losing a job, or like my mom, being a single parent experiencing a medical issue, needs are out there. In any case, life is all too real. And you and I are in a position to help.
On November 7, 2019, we will be holding a Community Event at the Jourdanton Community Library to help stock up the JISD Food Locker. To help spur donations, we are giving away a free signed copy of my first Elissa book, Elissa the Curious Snail, to the first 50 kids who come out with a non-perishable item. But we would ask you to come out and help this cause, even if you do not need or want a book. We as a community must reach out to those around us. Many of those in need remain silent, afraid of wearing a label. The Food Locker is the perfect means of discretely helping the silent needy.
I can understand being in need, I can understand remaining silent amidst a need, and I do understand being the giver to those in need. I ask you to join with me in supplying those who need assistance. You probably will never know where your donation goes, but understand that it is being used to help those who need it most.
I look forward to seeing each and every one of you on Thursday, November 7th. I will be there from 6 to 8 PM signing copies of my Elissa the Curious Snail series of books, as well as my novel for adults, The Five Barred Gate. If you are not among the first fifty, I will have copies of all books for you to purchase. And with every book sold, a portion of that sale will go to the JISD Food Locker program.
A special heartfelt thanks to everyone involved with this event. Marie Fanno, without the love you have for your students, these needs would remain unknown and unmet. Dorothy Manning for allowing us to hold this event at the Library. Barbara Peeler, thank you for all you have done to make this event possible. Denise Williams, without your assistance, this event would not be taking place. Thank you for all you do for the school and I am grateful we met. I look forward to what our city will do for our kids.
In His Exciting Service,
Jeff S. Bray