Collin County advocates: Hunger growing, but help isn't

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on July 13, 2012 at 5:46 PM

PLANO - Collin County is known for its wealth, not its needy. But, the numbers of people there who are economically disadvantaged are growing.

A new report shows the number of homeless families doubled, just in the last year. The homeless who were surveyed say their biggest needs are food and housing. Yet, programs to help feed them are at pre-recession levels.

Cindy Millan brings her four children to Meadows Elementary in East Plano for free lunches three times a week. With school out for the summer, her kids have been eating three meals a day at home. For Millan's struggling family, that means more expenses and burden.

"I think as the economy is right now, we need it right now, especially for the kids," Millan said.

Meadows is the only school in the Plano Independent School District offering the Texas Department of Agriculture's summer free meal program for kids. James Thomas, who oversees the program, said it's just not enough.

"Our numbers have grown astronomically,” said Thomas, the student services coordinator for PISD. “There's no way we're possibly meeting the demand because it is in fact one school. It needs to be across the district."

Other North Texas school districts offer multiple locations for free summer meals, like in Mesquite where kids can get breakfast at two schools or lunch at 13 campuses.

PISD superintendent Richard Matkin said there’s a good reason why.

"In past years, the district tried having the program in other parts of town, but there was not enough participating to continue," he said.

The superintendent said there’s also a good explanation why Mesquite has so many more locations.

“Sixty-five percent of the Mesquite ISD is economically disadvantaged," he said. "PISD, at 26 percent, is not required to offer the program. But, we felt it important to provide as a community service." 

Those who feed Collin County's hungry say they're also fighting the perception that Collin County is wealthy and everyone's needs are being met.

"If that was the case, we wouldn't be filling it up with 300 people every day," Thomas said.

Several other North Texas School districts are offering free meals for economically disadvantaged kids this summer, including Dallas, Forth Worth, Tarrant County and McKinney.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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