HOUSTON -- Five days a week they load up and head out, bringing smiles to "little people" in need, and Thursday was no different, NewsFix was just fortunate enough to tag along. At each stop was a smile, a hug and a glimmer of hope as Kids Meals Houston delivered hundreds of food donations to families.
It's something we don't always think about. The school districts provide healthy meals for the children old enough to go to school, but what about the little ones left at home?
Kids Meals Houston is on a mission to end childhood hunger by delivering free, healthy meals to the doorsteps of preschool-aged children. The organization acts as a first-responder to children ages 5 and under who are in, or near, poverty.
There are seven drivers and each visit between 90 and 300 families per day, beginning at 7:30 a.m. and wrapping up around 2 p.m. on Monday- Friday. It is something they love to do, knowing they are making a difference.
"Because a lot of them don't have nothing to eat through the weekend so we pack a little extra, a little extra grocery bags," driver Veronica Flores said.
Community advocate Myra Johnson joined with Flores Thursday as they made stops along Fountainview, Fondren, Beechnut, Hillcroft and in China Town. For her birthday celebration, in lieu of gifts, she asked attendees to donate money to Kids Meals.
"Every little bit helps," Johnson said. "I had a birthday happy hour and asked that guests give a donation of any amount at the door. We raised enough money to feed 500 children in just two hours. The restaurant, District Bar & Bistro, donated wine and light bites for attendees.
Johnson said there is no "look" to hunger. It affects all walks of life.
"I think there is definitely a false perception that people in need aren't working. The majority of the individuals served by Kids Meals don't receive government funding," she explained. "These children flock to the Kids Meals van. They get so excited!"
Kids Meals buys the food from the Houston Food Bank instead of grocery suppliers to keep cost down.
In addition to private donations, major corporations have stepped up.
Sprouts and two local KFC chains have decided to donate unsold items to the program. Organizers are hoping that other suppliers will do the same. In fact, they hope everyone who "can" will join in the fight to end childhood hunger
"This is about helping fellow Houston families who are in transition. We all have found ourselves in unexpected situations. Majority of Kids Meals clients are working families that need just a bit of help to make ends meet. Sometimes we help others, and sometimes someone does us a favor to help us keep fighting for a better future," Johnson said. "There are other alternatives if you can't make it to, or coordinate a gala, and you don't have to be a socialite or a "cool kid," two dollars a day can feed a hungry Houston child."