Gabriela Arandia and family

The Program for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities (PRNHD) at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) School of Rural Public Health and Comidas Saludables & Gente Sana en las Colonias del Sur de Tejas (Healthy Food and Healthy People in South Texas Colonias) had a successful second annual back-to-school promotion for 2011— “Preparando a los niños en colonias para tener éxito en la escuela” (Preparing children in the colonias to succeed in school).

With generous support from faculty, students and staff from the TAMHSC, Texas A&M University, and family and friends across Texas, the summer project prepared more than 110 underprivileged children among 28 families with essential items for the upcoming school year. Children received new backpacks equipped with all of the back-to-school essentials in addition to a $20 Walmart gift card for shoes or school clothes..

Last year’s back-to-school promotion benefitted 68 children among 21 families in the San Carlos and Alton-area colonias. This year, team promotores (community health workers) identified deserving families in Progreso and Peñitas, as well as additional families in San Carlos and Alton. The project culminated with home deliveries that took place on Aug. 3-4 in these areas.

Coordinators Joseph Sharkey, Ph.D., M.P.H., RD, professor and PRNHD director; Gabriela Arandia; Melissa Gómez; and Raquel Flores, M.P.H., with PRNHD and Comidas Saludables & Gente Sana en las Colonias del Sur de Tejas, were joined by Wesley Dean, Ph.D., adjunct assistant professor with the PRNHD, and team promotora María Davila to personally distribute items to each family. The team also distributed more than 40 portable fans to help the families cope with the South Texas heat.

Children were overjoyed by their new backpacks, each personalized with a colorful nametag. As items were distributed to each child, mothers expressed a mix of emotions – both joy for their children’s joy and a great sense of relief that their children would be well prepared for school. Mothers received personalized note cards and gift bags filled with beauty products to show that they are greatly appreciated. The families expressed sincere gratitude to everyone who made it possible.

Melissa Gómez and family

We encountered bright young children who are excelling in school and proud mothers who were more than willing to show off their children’s academic accomplishments. For these families, education is paramount and the key to unlocking a brighter and better future. In these difficult economic times, we are especially grateful to our sponsors for their willingness to help these families. Once again, thank you!” – PRNHD

The PRNHD and Comidas Saludables & Gente Sana en las Colonias del Sur de Tejas look forward to their 3rd Annual Christmas in the Colonias gift drive for 2011. If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please contact Raquel Flores, M.P.H., at raflores@srph.tamhsc.edu, Gabriela Arandia at arandia@srph.tamhsc.edu, or Melissa Gómez at mgomez@srph.tamhsc.edu, for more information.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell