Local organization keeping students nourished throughout summer

Kate Pezzulli and Lisa Ferguson
Prosper Press
Volunteers with the Prosper Ladies Association stack donations of food on a cart. The supplies are used to feed local children participating in the organization's annual Summer Lunch Program.

Prosper Self Storage wasn’t exactly bustling with activity on a recent Saturday morning, but one shouldn’t be fooled by the calm and quiet.

Behind the scenes, the Prosper Ladies’ Association (PLA), a local nonprofit organization that works to aid families in need, uses the storage facility at 5903 N. Custer Road to collect, store and distribute food donations for its annual Summer Lunch Program.

The program provides breakfast and lunch daily for Prosper ISD students who participate in the district’s free and reduced-cost lunch program during the school year, but who lack access to meals during the summer months.

From 8-10 a.m. Aug. 1, PLA will host its final food-donation drop-off event of the season at Prosper Self Storage. Local residents and others are asked to donate items that will be used during the Summer Lunch Program.

The organization is currently in need of ramen noodles, peanut butter and jelly, single-serve applesauce cups, beans, canned products including fruits, vegetables and pasta, canned meats (tuna and chicken), boxes of macaroni and cheese, popcorn, granola bars, instant oatmeal and breakfast cereal.

Food collected at Saturday’s event will be distributed Aug. 4 and provide meals for students until they are able to return to school campuses when instruction resumes on Aug. 12.

Most years, with donations of food items and funds, PLA’s Summer Lunch Program serves approximately 200 youngsters weekly. However, that number skyrocketed to 613 students this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Amy Jukes, who is the organization’s publicity chair, said it also learns about other Prosper ISD families who may need the Summer Lunch Program.

This year, it received upward of two dozen emails from local school counselors advising PLA of “families (that) are now in crisis mode,” Jukes explained.

Despite the affluence that exists in Prosper, she said there are many children and families in need of assistance.

“We see abject poverty,” she explained. “We still have people who are migrant farmers in the area who we help, and they are so grateful for any little thing that they can get help with. I think they’re just hidden, but they’re such a part of the community.

“Our goal as an organization … we just kind of close the gap, especially with the kiddos so they don’t feel left out or left behind or without,” she said.

This year, PLA partnered with Lovepacs, another local nonprofit that provides food to children in need, for the Summer Lunch Program.

The program received donations of chips from Frito Lay as well as hot dogs and turkey breast meat from Bar-S Foods that it included in boxes of food, which are hand-packed and delivered by PLA volunteers to the homes of Prosper ISD students who sign up to participate in the program.

Some changes to the program became necessary this year in the wake of the pandemic. For example, all donated food items are held in a 72-hour quarantine, so to speak, before being packaged and distributed.

Also, in years past, children had been able to peruse the donated foods and select items that appealed to them. That is no longer an option.

Upon receiving their meal boxes, Jukes said, some families have returned items after determining that they likely won’t eat them, or can’t due to a food allergy.

“They’ll pack it back up and send it with the drivers because they want to make sure that it is passed forward to kiddos that can use it,” she explained. “It’s amazing to see in the community ... the generosity towards each other in the program.”

For additional information about the Summer Lunch Program, as well as others sponsored annually by the Prosper Ladies Association, visit prosperladies.com.

Volunteers sort through food donations at a storage unit that houses supplies for Prosper Ladies Association's Summer Lunch Program.