Challenge Answered: Teen’s grant provides groceries for those in need

Thania Parra lifts down a box of apples for volunteer Albert Hinojosa to take Thursday morning at a food distribution event at La Posada Montezuma.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

A Brownsville teen’s grant provided groceries, fresh produce, and supplies to over 1,000 residents in need at a food distribution event in the Southmost area on Thursday morning.

A winding line of cars and families from the surrounding neighborhood waited to collect bright bundles of leafy greens, vegetables, and purple mesh sacks filled to the brim will non-perishable goods.

In February, Andres Guerra, who is still in high school, won a $5,000 grant from United Way Worldwide, Pop-Tarts, and the Kellogg Company under its Rep My City Challenge to create a city-wide day of giving, providing necessities to anyone who needs them.

Brownsville was the only city in the state of Texas awarded the funding, according to Guerra. Thursday’s event, coordinated with the help of a committee of city officials and local organizers, was originally planned for Morningside Park. The economic setbacks and uncertainties created by the pandemic forced the group to reassess.

Taking a break from distribution at La Posada Montezuma, Guerra said, “The idea was to create an event where we can do a central location for individuals experiencing homelessness, or the low socioeconomic population. They can come get a nice, warm meal; they can get resources in the community, produce, and clothing.”

As awareness over food insecurity within the community grew, the team decided to focus on meeting that need. On Thursday, volunteers handed out 500 food bank bags, 500 produce bundles from the Brownsville Wellness Coalition, and 300 kiddie packs with information on the census, snacks, clothing, and other items.

Distribution began early to meet demand. By 10 a.m., waiting vehicles stretched around the block and supplies moved quickly. “It’s been a success so far. We still have cars coming up. We’re thankful to have community partners like Brownsville Wellness Coalition, the City of Brownsville, and H-E-B, who actually matched our grant in product,” Guerra said.

“These are real families that we’re impacting today — not only in this area, but across the city.”

Nurith Galonsky, city commissioner for District 1, suggested her district for the project. “This all came together in about two weeks. It’s good, because it caters to a different part of my district. There are a lot of neighborhoods here and it’s very walkable,” she said.

Galonsky, outfitted in full personal protective gear, collected produce bundles to load into vehicles as she praised Guerra’s engagement in the community. “I’m really happy that it’s happening here. I’m happy that I’ve met Andres Guerra. He’s an impressive young man, he’s got a bright future ahead of him, and I look forward to seeing what else he does.”

Thursday’s distribution wasn’t the only initiative planned through the Rep My City grant. On Wednesday, the planning committee accompanied law enforcement in a “roll-by” honoring local healthcare workers with a sign reading “LIVE UNITED.”

The team will coordinate the delivery of meals and produce to people who registered through an online form. According to Guerra, the initiative has secured partners interested in targeting different demographics like the special needs community, senior citizens, and foster children.

esheirdan@brownsvilleherald.com