Thousands of meals intended for students in the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) were stolen last weekend, leaving the non-profit organization tasked with providing them scrambling and considering significant changes. Hunger Busters, which prepares meals for DISD students who rely on the organization to keep them from going hungry, recently discovered that tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of copper and other equipment had been stolen from their facility.
The CEO of Hunger Busters, Dr. Latame Phillips, spoke out about the theft, lamenting that the impact would be felt not just for the last week of the school year but also into the summer. “It wreaked havoc because all the food had rotted,” he said. Upon investigation, the organization realized that the theft was not a simple mechanical malfunction but rather a deliberate and targeted robbery.
After discovering their air conditioning unit severely damaged, Hunger Busters noticed that every screw had been removed, and an entire copper pipe system had been taken out. Phillips announced that the thieves specifically targeted elementary-aged students, forcing the non-profit to throw out more than $10,000 worth of food. “Students who rely on us without our meal would not have dinner,” he said.
Hunger Busters has dedicated 12 years to providing healthy and fresh meals for the DISD’s elementary school students. Presently, the non-profit serves over 3,400 children across 11 different elementary schools in the West, Southern, and Oak Cliff areas of Dallas. As Phillips notes, for many of these students, the Hunger Busters program ensures that they have the sustenance they need to perform well in school. “Attendance issues go down. A kid does not wake up hungry, so doesn’t feel sick,” he said. “Squirminess goes down. Test scores go up.”
Fortunately, for the last week of school, Meals on Wheels and a local food truck business have stepped up to fill the void created by the theft. However, the impact on Hunger Busters has been significant, and it will hurt the organization’s ability to serve Dallas’s most vulnerable children. The thieves also took three framed pieces of autographed sports memorabilia that had been donated, which was expected to raise at least $3,000 in funds for the organization. Dallas police say no suspect information is available at this time.
Hunger Busters is a non-profit organization that relies on donations and volunteer work. The stolen equipment was an expensive setback for the group as repairs and equipment replacement require significant funding. “We don’t have state funding or a large corporation backing us. It’s devastating,” Phillips said. Instead of focusing on the standard summer meal preparation and delivery, the much-needed funds must be sourced for the expensive new equipment and associated repairs. Regardless, the organization has vowed to continue its commitment to DISD students.