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Upcoming food drop aims to serve northwestern part of Tyler

A new program to help people get fresh produce if they struggle with getting healthy food is kicking off in the northwestern part of Tyler this month.

It’s part of an initiative by a local volunteer group who looked at data showing that people in the northwestern part of the city struggle with obtaining food, and there aren’t markets nearby to help them.

Councilwoman Shirley McKellar understands the problem all too well. She grew up in the area, and lives near the Caldwell Zoo, but there are no supermarkets in her neighborhood, and she routinely helps neighbors get food.

McKellar said the Walmart on Texas Highway 64 is technically in her City Council district, but it’s not in her neighborhood. The Super 1 on East Gentry Parkway is about a three-mile drive from the Caldwell Zoo.

“There are no markets in North Tyler, ma’am,” McKellar said. “People have to go out and go onto 271 or they have to go to west Tyler to 64 and the Loop. There’s an Aldi’s over there. I grew up with supermarkets, I’m talking about Brookshire’s right there in Tyler.”

Years ago, there was a Brookshire’s grocery store on North Broadway Avenue, where a clinic for the Northeast Texas Public Health District is now located, McKellar said. Under the bridge nearby on Valentine Street has become a gathering place for homeless Tylerites.

On Aug. 13, the East Texas Food Bank will work with the Smith County Food Security Council to bring an 18-wheeler full of fresh produce to New Days Community Church at 901 N. Broadway Avenue from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“We will have food for whoever needs it,” said Dr. Valerie Smith, a pediatrician with the St. Paul Children’s Foundation and he leader of the Smith County Food Security Council. “So if we get 1,000 families, then fabulous.”

The council is a volunteer coalition that includes representatives from nonprofits, health care, education, public health, religious organizations, businesses, agricultural organizations, and private citizens. Smith said the work relates directly to practicing medicine.

“Food insecurity is associated with a whole host of health and mental health outcomes for kids especially, everything from anemia and low bone density to school delays, to problems with anxiety and depression, to problems with diabetes and high cholesterol,” Smith said.

“What I know is I can see a family in the clinic and tell them how they need to change their diet in order to be healthier but if they don’t have access to that food, everything I tell them doesn’t make a difference,” Smith said.

Kids are just a portion of those who will be served, says Bill McRoberts, one of the volunteers with the Smith County Food Security Council. McRoberts, of Hideaway, says people in any age group are welcome to the services being offered.

“Twenty-four percent of children in Smith County don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Hear me, one in four children in Smith County don’t know where their next meal is coming from. It’s unacceptable. To me it’s just wrong.”

He added: “It’s difficult for me to imagine a mother fully fed when her children don’t have anything to eat. What I’m telling you is she’s not eating either.”

Kinsey Jeffers, a nutrition educator for the East Texas Food Bank, said the event also will have representatives from the Women, Infant, and Children program, the Texas Workforce Commission, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Medicaid, among others.

Jeffers said the East Texas Food Bank does these types of food drops through the 26 counties it serves, but this will be the first time that additional services will be offered in conjunction with the food.

“The produce is there because it’s kind of a food desert, so it’s in an area where they don’t necessarily have a lot of access to fresh produce,” Jeffers said. “So that’s kind of the first goal, but then also, why not have a one-stop shop?”

Smith said the August event is the first in what she hopes will become quarterly food drops at the New Day Community Church. She said the group found that church because the northwestern part of Tyler has the highest need in the city.

“(We noticed) a lack of food pantries in that area and really a great need in that area but not a lot of community organizations that are housed in that area, so instead of housing them in those organizations, we wanted to bring them into the community there,” Smith said.

She said the northeastern part of Tyler also has significant problems with food insecurity, but there are more food pantries nearby to serve those people. Additionally, the demographic data from the nearby elementary schools show a need.

“Of all the places in Tyler, this particular part of Tyler is in more need of health care, of food support, and those kinds of things, so we welcome them,” said Reginald Garrett, the pastor for New Days.

“Right now we just have this one-deal plan, but we look forward to any, if there are subsequent programs, we would look forward to doing that,” Garrett said.

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Thousands of families prepare for the new school year with 6th annual School is Cool event

When it comes to stretching your dollars ahead of the new school year, the annual School Is Cool event is a game changer for Tyler families.

Although doors weren’t set to open until 4:30 p.m., more than a dozen families were already hanging out under gazebos in front of the Rose Garden Center by noon. The event was split between the Rose Garden Center and Harvey Convention Center with games and food vendors in the parking lot.

Large fans also lined the sidewalk, and volunteers handed out cold water to help keep families cool

Children played games and made art with sidewalk chalk as they killed time before the event.

Nilda Barrios was the first in line around 10 a.m., eager to ensure she would be able to take advantage of the services offered, which could save families hundreds of dollars.

From haircuts to immunizations and backpacks full of school supplies and even help with uniforms, the sixth annual School is Cool event had everything families needed to start the school year off right.

Over the past few months volunteers with the City of Tyler, Tyler Independent School District, the Tyler Area Partnership for Education and other community organizations has worked to ensure about 2,000 families will be served this year.

In all, more than 100 volunteers helped make the event happen.

Robert E. Lee High School student Henry Jones, 16, was helping out at the event, and got the added bonus of earning community service hours toward his TJC Promise Program scholarship.

“It’s just an added benefit, but the community part is why I’m here,” he said.

Jones said he was surprised by just how many families were being helped. As they made their way to stations in the Rose Garden, Jones was on hand to help guide them to the variety of services available.

Lashay Hooper brought her two children in to take advantage of so many services being offered in one stop.

She was able to get immunizations done, pickup school supplies and learn more about services in the area.

She said she heard about the event from a text alert sent out by Boulter Middle School, which her son attends.

“I think it was nice, besides the heat outside,” she said. “It’s well organized.”

Hooper said the money she saved by going to School is Cool will allow her to focus on other necessities as the new school year approaches.

In Jacksonvill, the Chamber of Commerce teamed up with Jacksonville ISD for a Back to School fair, giving out 1,000 backpacks with school supplies to families in attendance.

Trump says he'd rather rallygoers not chant 'Send her back!'

CINCINNATI — President Donald Trump used a revved-up rally Thursday in Cincinnati to tear into the Democrats he has been elevating as his new political foils, attacking four liberal congresswomen of color and their party’s urban leaders, while also training fire on those he could be facing in 2020.

But the president mostly avoided the racial controversy that has dominated recent weeks as he basked in front of the raucous crowd for nearly 90 minutes, unleashing broadside after broadside on his political foes. Trump, who had faced widespread criticism for not doing more to stop the chants of “Send her back” about Somali-born Rep. Ilhan Omar at a rally last month, seemed to want to avoid further furor, urging his supporters ahead of the rally to avoid the chant and largely sticking to a greatest hits performance.

But while he did not mention Omar or her three colleagues by name in the opening moments of his Ohio gathering, the target of his attacks was unmistakable.

“The Democrat party is now being led by four left-wing extremists who reject everything that we hold dear,” Trump said of Omar and her fellow House Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

But the fleeting mention did not lead to further chants. Nor did an extended attack on Democratic leaders of urban areas, which Trump has laced into in recent days as part of his incendiary broadsides against Rep. Elijah Cummings and the majority-black city of Baltimore.

“No one has paid a higher price for the far-left destructive agenda than Americans living in our nation’s inner cities,” Trump said, drawing cheers from the mostly white crowd in the packed arena on the banks of the Ohio River. “We send billions and billions and billions for years and years and it’s stolen money, and it’s wasted money.”

The rally was the first for Trump since the “Send her back” chant at a North Carolina rally was denounced by Democrats and unnerved Republicans fearful of a presidential campaign fought on racial lines.

In the early moments of Thursday’s rally, Trump declared, “I don’t want to be controversial.” He mostly stuck to it.

With the eyes of the political world shifting from two days of Democratic debates to see if Trump would stoke racial anger, the president largely delivered his standard stump speech. But Trump, the most avid cable news viewer in the history of the office, could not resist delivering his review of the Detroit debates.

“That’s was long, long television,” Trump said. “The Democrats spent more time attacking Barack Obama than they did attacking me, practically.”

He mocked some of the leading Democratic contenders, reviving his nickname of “Sleepy” for Joe Biden, teasing Elizabeth Warren for claiming some Native American heritage and lashing the Democrats for their health care and immigration proposals.

“The Democrats have never been so far outside the mainstream,” Trump claimed.

Hours earlier, Trump announced that China had not kept up its end of trade negotiations, prompting him to increase tariffs 10 percent on $300 billion worth of new goods. Trump at the rally expressed confidence that a deal would get settled but said, “Until such time there is a deal we’ll be taxing the hell out of China.”

The rally was also Trump’s first since special counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress, the apparent final chapter of the Russia probe that has shadowed the White House for more than two years. But Trump only mentioned it once, mocking Mueller’s at-times halting appearance by sarcastically saying the investigator seemed “sharp as a tack.”

Though boisterous at the beginning, the crowd began to thin as Trump crossed the hour mark and stayed disciplined in touting the strong economy and his administration’s accomplishments. The president’s remarks were also interrupted twice by protesters.

Speaking to reporters before leaving for Cincinnati, Trump said he didn’t know whether his would revive the “Send her back” chant anyway or what his response would be if they did — adding that, regardless, he “loves” his political supporters.

“I don’t know that you can stop people,” Trump told reporters. “If they do the chant, we’ll have to see what happens.”

The chant in North Carolina followed racist tweets Trump sent against Omar and three other first-term lawmakers of color, instructing them to get out of the U.S. “right now” and saying if the lawmakers “hate our country,” they can “go back” to their “broken and crime-infested” countries.

Two weeks ago, Trump wavered in his response to the divisive cries, letting the chant roll at the rally, expressing disapproval about it the next day and later retreating from those concerns.

Since then, Trump has pushed ahead with his attacks of Cummings and Baltimore. Heightening the drama, Trump’s Ohio rally took place against a backdrop of simmering racial tension in the host city of Cincinnati.

A variety of opinions about the chant dotted the crowd before the rally.

Robyn McGrail, 64, and her husband were celebrating their 44th wedding anniversary by attending their third Trump rally. She said that if the crowd did begin the chant, “I’ll probably be cheering. If they don’t like America, they should leave. We love our country.”

“We listen to him and we won’t do it,” Wells said. “I don’t think it will happen. If it does, we won’t participate because he’s against that. That’s not what his message is.”

Hours before the president’s rally, Omar posted a photo of herself and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Africa, writing, “They said ‘send her back’ but Speaker Pelosi didn’t just make arrangements to send me back, she went back with me.”

Trump captured Ohio by nearly 9 percentage points in 2016, and he fared somewhat better among midterm voters in Ohio than among voters in Rust Belt neighbors Michigan and Wisconsin. About half of Ohio voters, 49%, expressed approval of Trump’s job as president, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of the electorate in 2018. Forty-four percent of voters in Michigan, and 43% of voters in Wisconsin, approved of Trump.

Several protests took place around the Trump rally, including one at the nearby National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. It focuses on the slavery era and current struggles against injustice around the world.