In October 2021, Children's Pastor Barry Seymour of Praise Tabernacle Church stood along Park Avenue next to the Subway and Del’s Lemonade parking lot in a hot dog costume. Behind him were …
In October 2021, Children's Pastor Barry Seymour of Praise Tabernacle Church stood along Park Avenue next to the Subway and Del’s Lemonade parking lot in a hot dog costume. Behind him were church volunteers, a food truck and a table of snacks.
It was that afternoon just after school ended that Barry remembers telling middle schoolers who were walking home that the church had free snacks for them. One kid from Park View looked at him and asked ‘so, what’s the catch?’ There was none.
Since last year, Praise Tabernacle Church has provided free after school snacks for local middle schoolers on Mondays and Tuesdays during the academic year – volunteers have not missed a single week. When kids walk up to the food truck and its outdoor tables, they can pick the snacks they’d like. The church has a variety to choose from and, this week, served pizza, hot dogs, nachos, donuts, chips, soda and water. Barry said the church has many donors that have blessed them with free food including Cosmic Pizza which gives the church five large pizzas each week, Dunkin Donuts and Stop & Shop.
On Tuesday, Customer Service Manager Megan Burns and Store Manager Lisa Quattrucci from the 275 Warwick Avenue Stop & Shop in Cranston dropped by the food truck to give Barry five $100 gift cards to the grocery store. Barry, who’s worked at the church for the past nine years, thanked the store for its generosity said the church will use the money for snacks like chips, drinks and other items that they may not normally have for kids when they stop by.
Burns, who has been at Stop & Shop for one year, said she read about the store’s program called Beyond the Aisles where the different Stop & Shop locations could apply for gift cards and donate to others. One of the qualifications was that the Stop & Shop applicant needed to have a community relationship in order to apply. Since the Warwick Avenue store donated food weekly to Praise Tabernacle Church, the store met the qualifications; Burns and Quattrucci received the highest gift card donation that one could apply for from the program.
The number of students visiting the food truck has increased exponentially since last year. The first time the church held snacks for students, 11 kids came. Last week, 50 kids stopped by. Through word of mouth, the number of individuals has increased. Volunteers set up just before school lets out and will stay for about 10 to 15 minutes while kids pick up food and continue on their way.
Barry recalled one instance last year where a girl with pink hair came by, got food and told volunteers her birthday was the following day. The church told her to come back the next day and they’d have a cake for her. Since the Warwick Avenue Stop & Shop donates various bakery goods to the church, the church had several cakes stored. The girl didn’t show up the next day, so volunteers asked the other students if they knew the girl because they had a cake for her. Some of the girls’ friends were at the food truck and called her. Even though she had been heading in a different direction, she turned around. Barry said her reaction was ‘you did this for me?’
Barry recognized that not all these kids have a full fridge at home. He added that some kids who live in the opposite direction will come to the food truck after school then turn around for home. Since they’ve started handing out food, sometimes kids will stop by the church in the morning and knock on the door to see if they can get a granola bar before they start their day. He said the kids are always polite and thankful.
Prior to the start of free snacks, volunteers said kids would come and smoke in the parking lot where they now give away food.
Last June, the church held a summer block party where there were activities for kids and a donut eating contest. Warwick Avenue’s Stop & Shop set up a station and handed out healthy snacks, granola bars, water, reusable bags and ChapStick. They received over 100 kids for this event.
Praise Tabernacle is also running an after school program on Wednesdays called Worldwide Ministry at Park View Middle School that is run by young adults. Barry added that middle school nowadays can be difficult to navigate and this program can help with wisdom and guidance. At the food truck, volunteers will let the kids know about the programs, but the emphasis on the free food is giving them food to fill them up and to bless them. The volunteers know the kids’ names, ask them how they’re doing and what they’re up to. On Monday, members of the boys’ soccer team stopped by to pick up food and were asked about their upcoming game.
The church is always looking for volunteers and hands out free food in Providence six days a week with its food truck. Praise Tabernacle Church is located at 330 Park Ave., Cranston.
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