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Smith County Food Security Council hosts educational event about hunger

Smith County Food Security Council continued its mission to reduce hunger within the local community through an educational event at the East Texas Food Bank Monday in Tyler.

The council hosted the No Hungry Neighbors: Community-Wide Awareness Event to demonstrate the effects hunger can have on people and the need to work together to address the issue.

Jhonniece Meeks/Freelance Valerie Smith, pediatrician at St. Paul Children’s Foundation and chair of the Smith Country Food Security Council, speaks during the No Hungry Neighbors: Communitywide Awareness Event.

Dr. Valerie Smith, a pediatrician at St. Paul Children’s Foundation and the food security council’s chair, said the council exists to improve the health of the community.

Some of the council’s work includes training health care providers to screen for food insecurity and educating people about local agriculture, Smith said.

The recent produce drop and community resource roadshow event in August provided fresh, healthy produce to hundreds of families, Smith said.

After Smith shared about the council’s work, she introduced Jeremy Everett, author of “I Was Hungry” and director of the Texas Hunger Initiative, which is an anti-hunger project within Baylor University.Everett has spent roughly 20 years living in impoverished communities to learn about the experiences of those living in hunger.

“You’ve got to be immersed with it. You have to be in a relationship with people experiencing hunger,” Everett said. “We have a tendency of blaming the poor for their plight.This whole idea of the poor being lazy is tired.”

With proximity to the problem of hunger, “it’s like you’re bearing witness,” to it, Everett said. He shared a story of a neighbor, Lupe, he had while living in San Antonio. She had eight kids, took care of her parents and her husband worked full time. She lacked health insurance and consistent food for her family.

Because of her lack of insurance, she waited too long to see a doctor about an ear infection and died after the infection ruptured to her brain.

“Our economic hardships are not evenly spread out throughout society,” Everett said.

Hunger in the U.S. is often episodic or based on paycheck to paycheck for most, Everett said. Food insecurity, which is the lack of a consistent food source for a healthy life, is linked to poor nutrition, increased health problems and developmental issues.

Everett told the audience the No. 1 cause of hunger in the U.S. is underemployment and the No. 2 cause is lack of education. Mental health also contributes to the hunger epidemic.

Everett thinks this generation is going to be judged by how it works to decrease hunger and poverty. He noted that even in the most bleak times, people can find the common good.

Joseph Guzzetta, culinary instructor at Tyler ISD Career and Technology Center, and his students also demonstrated how to make a healthy meal with less food waste for those in attendance.

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Tyler Rose Garden added to National Register of Historic Places

The Tyler Municipal Rose Garden has been added to the nation’s top historical sites. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places, an announcement from the city said.

More than two years ago, city representatives began the application process that led to the rose garden being added to the registry of buildings and sites worth of preservation. To be listed, a site must be at least 50 years old and have either historical or architectural significance.

A ceremony to celebrate its inclusion on the registry is set for 2 p.m. Oct. 17 at 420 Rose Park Drive.

The city opened the 14-acre garden in 1952. The garden has about 38,000 bushes with 600 varieties of roses displayed among reflecting pools, walkways and fountains. Many of the original bushes were donated by area rose growers and nurseries.

The garden is the site of the annual Texas Rose Festival Queen’s Tea and other community events.

Last year, the Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association named the garden as one of the great public spaces in Texas.

That recognition praised the city’s use of the garden to add value to the community.

TWITTER: @Tylerpaper

Tyler native Phyllis Cicero honored for her legacy in entertainment

Tyler native Phyllis Cicero, who has become an accomplished actress, director and teacher, was acknowledged for her work Monday during a reception hosted by the Tyler-based Texas African American Museum.

Known for her role as Stella the Storyteller in the popular children’s show “Barney and Friends,” Cicero was excited to come back to her hometown.

“It’s been fantastic to come back to see what the city looks like,” she said. “I have an opportunity to see my city grow culturally, socially and educationally.”

Cicero was born and raised in Tyler and graduated from John Tyler High School in 1977. She later studied theatre arts at Columbia University in New York City and at The University of Texas at Austin.

During the reception at the Tyler Public Library, Gloria Washington, executive director of the Texas African American Museum in Tyler, read a proclamation from Tyler Mayor Martin Heines declaring Sept. 16 as Phyllis Cicero Day to honor her legacy and accomplishments.

“I’m just humbled,” Cicero said of the proclamation. “It’s quite an honor especially in your hometown. It was a special place to grow up.”

Washington explained this is the first time Cicero has been invited to Tyler to be recognized for her accomplishments.

“It brought the community together,” Washington said. “To meet her personally, it’s been awesome.”

In her speech, Cicero, who now lives in the Dallas area, recalled walking from the northern part of Tyler to get books from the Tyler Public Library as a middle schooler in the summer.

“There were so many things that happened in Tyler, Texas, that couldn’t have germinated anywhere else,” Cicero explained. “Tyler, Texas taught me you can either be pitiful or powerful.”

She said her time on “Barney and Friends” was a dream job and all the children were polite and courteous. She appeared as Stella for several shows from 1995 to 2000. She also starred in “The Best of Barney” in 2008.

“The experience on ‘Barney and Friends’ was absolutely spectacular,” Cicero said.

Cicero’s career also includes years of voice acting, production management, stage lighting, dance, improvisation and film. Her voice work features Southern, British, French, New York, Texan, Scottish and African accents.

“Voice acting is acting,” Cicero said. “It’s a very lucrative career. The voiceover industry is morphing and changing exponentially.”

She is now directing a show at the Bishop Arts Theatre Center in Dallas that is in the preproduction phase.

She teaches voiceover work and commercial acting at the KD Conservatory College of Film and Dramatic Arts in Dallas.

She continues to act and also works as a director.

For up and coming actors, Cicero said it’s important to work hard and be nice.

“This is a business of relationships,” she said. “People work with people they like.”

Washington said the museum will be planning more events in the future to honor other individuals from Tyler.

TWITTER: @Tylerpaper