The City of Beaumont is beginning its summer push to keep children who are out of school fed, happy and healthy.
The program is part of a joint effort between the Texas Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture and utilizes federal and state money, said Deborah Queen, who’s spearheading the city’s initiative.
“Based on last year, I predict that I’ll feed 22,755 meals, and that’ll be a $77,000 grant flow through to the city,” Queen said. “But, I really think that the BISD is maybe not having as many summer school programs and so today, (Monday, May 9) I was swamped, over swamped with lots of kids. But that’s a good thing because it’s a reimbursable grant. So, if I were to have twice as many people come, we would get reimbursed. So, we want more kids to come. There’s no cap on it.”
A trip to Beaumont’s North End revealed Beaumont’s kids are using the free lunches. At Pointe North Apartments on Magnolia, Corinthinane Curtis was serving meals and watching closely as children as young as 3 years old played and ate to their heart’s content.
“I live here and I love it. Half the kids, they already know me, but every year we’re getting new kids coming in, so it’s still fine,” she said. “We just have to tell them the rules and everything. So far it’s been good.”
For the last three years Curtis has served free lunches to the children in her area. She said without the lunches, many might go hungry.
“It’s very important. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I would prefer it stay on every summer because some of these kids they don’t get to eat constantly,” Curtis said. “By having this program up here, it gives them the chance to eat as much as they want. We can’t turn you down for no reason, no matter what. So just knowing that they can go home with a stomach that’s full, they have something to eat today, that makes me happy. I encourage them to come here. I say, ‘Tell your friends, your cousins, spread the word.’”
Queen said the meals this year are a little different.
“Since we’re feeding in the parks and there’s no refrigeration, we are feeding sandwiches every day, but the sandwiches are different. They get a package of mustard and mayonnaise to make it a little more unique for them,” Queen said. “This year, we’re coming out with the wraps. Moncla’s is making wraps for us with whole wheat and has the cream cheese rolled up with the meat, so that’s the new yummy thing this year.”
Those who wish to have a free lunch for their child under 18 can do so at most locations between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., but those who eat meals do not have to be residents of Beaumont or of Jefferson County. If your child is part of a summer camp of any sort, Queen said call her a day in advance and she’ll have enough free lunches for your kiddos.
“The parks we’re feeding at are parks that the census data says has a predominance of low income children living around there. But anyone can come. No one is checking,” Queen said. “If they’re a child, we’ll feed them. If they are a Bible school or lets say any kind of special camp, if they call us ahead of time ... we would add those. They just need to call us by about 1 p.m. the day before.”
In order to ensure that they have meals for everyone, large groups should (409) 838-1902 at least one day in advance. The locations for free lunches are as follows:
• Cathedral of Faith Baptist Church (outreach building area), 3210 Elmira, 10:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
• Perlstein Park, 8900 Landis Dr., 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
• Northridge Apartments, 4155 Maida, 11:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
• Pointe North Apartments, 3710 Magnolia, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
• Magnolia Park, 2930 Gulf, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
• Alice Keith Park, 4075 Highland Ave., 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
• Sprott Park, 4325 Usan, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
• Roberts Park, 2755 Ave. C, 11:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
• Central Park, 640 South Fourth, noon – 2 p.m.
Queen said a free lunch isn’t the only thing in store for the children of Beaumont.
“As soon as we get all this straightened out about how many kids we’re feeding, we also have hoola-hoops and balls and lots of stuff for them to play with. We’re also going to introduce some brain gym and tai chi moves. A lot of times, kids can do things really frantic, but they might not have good balance,” she said. “And we have hired a college football player, he’s at Roberts Park. He’s a wonderful roll model.”
School is out and the city pools have opened! Families all over Beaumont are welcome to cool off at either of the city’s two swimming pools, Alice Keith Pool or Magnolia Pool. Hours for both are Sunday through Thursday from noon to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. All city pools are closed on Mondays. Alice Keith pool is at 4050 Reed St., and Magnolia Pool is at 2855 Magnolia. Please remember to never leave a child unsupervised around water.