There’s a sign of a finger pointing that reads “Free Meals” off Houston Street in George West.

It’s from Be A Champion, Inc. a nonprofit organization located in Houston, which provides free meals and snacks for children ages 18 and under.

“We have a great partnership with Pepsico Food for Good who we purchase the meals from,” said Sabrina Tellez, director of training and development. “They make fresh sandwiches daily, nothing is donated. We are always happy to reach new families in need.”

The Champion Fuel Food Program provides the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

These programs provide meals and snacks to thousands of children across the state of Texas daily.

At-risk CACFP snacks and meals can be served if at least 50% of the school location is approved for free and reduced lunch for all youth up to 18 years of age.

The program is funded by the Texas Department of Agriculture and schools, community centers, daycare centers, apartments, and churches are all qualified locations of service.

“We’re out here from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. every day for whoever needs it,” said Latauna Catherman. “I think it’s a great program because I remember being hungry as a kid and there wasn’t anything like this back then. Nowadays we could all use a little help for our families.”

Catherman and her daughters, Emma and Paige Norton, who are also students at George West High School, work for the organization.

“It’s my first job,” said Emma. “I like it because it’s easy and I get to help other students. Everyone is hungry after school, so I think this program is good for kids who need food.”

Catherman said she gives out about 29 meals a day to mostly younger kids who are not too shy or proud to approach the table located in front of the cafeteria.

“As soon as they get out of class they run over here and surround the table,” she said. “Sometimes they’ll sit right here and eat. Most of them just put it in their backpacks because they’re not allowed to eat on the bus.”

The program requires Catherman to keep a log with children’s names and ages. If a parent or teacher picks up the meals for the child, they must show proof with a school ID or report card.

Nikki Wallace, who is employed with GWISD, picked up a meal for a student she was escorting home.

“I love this program, I think it’s great,” she said. “It’s helping kids who might be getting the food they need ­— especially on the weekends. He likes the sandwiches and appreciates the snacks, too. There’s nothing else like this here.”

On Fridays, students are provided with extra food for the weekend.

Meals usually include a sandwich and chips with fruit or a “lunchable” kit, with juice and yogurt. The shelf stable kits include milk or juice, raisins, chickpeas, chicken salad and crackers.

“Menus are designed by working in collaboration with our vendors that follow USDA guidelines,” said Tellez. “The program is expected to operate during the summer and again next school year. In addition, we offer educational services to schools, including tutors, substitutes, and other ancillary support.”

•arivera@mysoutex.com•

 

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