PHARR, Texas – Believing that no child in America should go without a nutritious meal every day, Vanguard Academy has been feeding the families of Pharr, San Juan, and Alamo throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

From the day schools were closed across Texas, back in March, Vanguard has been providing nutritious meals, not just to those who attend the nonprofit charter but, in fact, to any student that lives locally. 

“What we have been doing has been so powerful. We are feeding the children because our children should not go hungry,” said Yolanda Castillo, principal of Vanguard’s Rembrandt Elementary in Pharr.

“It is a good feeling to know that through this endeavor, our children will have meals for at least the next 17 days.”

Castillo gave an exclusive  interview to The Rio Grande Guardian on a day when Vanguard partnered with Walmart and the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley to provide food and supplies to local families.

The families did not have to have students at Vanguard. 

“We have fed a thousand people today. It was first come, first served. We advertised on Facebook and different media sources and people knew about it beforehand. All they needed to do was bring proof of ID and also their address,” Castillo said.

“They have had the chance to pick up 25 pounds of natural chicken breast, milk, vegetables and, thanks to Walmart, toys for the children.”

Castillo added: “It is all through God’s grace we are able to do this. We are very happy we have been given the opportunity to be part of this, to collaborate on this incredible food distribution project.”

The superintendent of Vanguard Academy is Dr. Narciso Garcia. Speaking about the daily school meals distribution project that has taken place throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Garcia said:

“When the pandemic hit March 13 we knew we had to make plans to have our doors open for meal distribution. Since March 23 we have distributed over 700,000 meals,” Garcia said, proudly.

“Then, as the pandemic moved into April we saw we had a lot of need in the community. We not only allowed Vanguard Academy families to come and pick up meals but also the families of students who do not attend classes here. We saw the need.”

As for the collaboration with the Food Bank, Garcia said: “We have been here since 6:30 in the morning, opening up with Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez. At 7 a.m. we started distributing meals to over 1,000 families. Cars were lined up all the way through Kelly, all the way to Cage, and all the way to Ridge Road, which is South Pharr.”

Garcia said it was easy to see why the program has been successful.

“Each family is getting 25 pounds of natural chicken breast, plus some canned goods, some produce like watermelons, and other vegetables. A lot of teachers, staff, and volunteers were here. Plus, briefly, the National Guard. But, since we had a lot of volunteers, they were sent to a different location.”

Asked how the operation started, Garcia said:

“A feed weeks ago the RGV Food Bank approached one of our principals, Ms. Castillo, from Rembrandt Elementary, and they then set up a meeting with myself and a couple of other people. We sat down and planned the logistics.”

Garcia said he believes local families understand the historical significance of Vanguard’s efforts.

“This is likely the first time a school system from Pharr, San Juan or Alamo has done something unique like this, to open up our school doors and say, you know what, let’s get meals out to 1,000 families in the community.”

Asked for any wrap-up remarks, Garcia said: “We are very blessed to be in great health and we pray for our state and national governments. We pray for them to get wisdom from God. We pray for the safety and health of our staff and our community.”

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