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Rangers join fight against hunger on MLK Day

Players partner with local high schools to distribute food in North Texas

Rangers join fight against hunger on MLK Day

DALLAS -- The grapefruit came from the south Texas town of Mission, off of one of the many farms in the lush and fertile Rio Grande Valley. They were delivered by the hundreds in big boxes sent to the North Texas Food Bank's warehouse in southwest Dallas.

It was a generous donation, but the grapefruit were not ready for distribution. That job fell to 45 students from Arlington Sam Houston and Dallas Pinkston High School, who are part of the Just Keep Livin program sponsored by the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation.

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Those students, joined by Rangers outfielder Michael Choice and former second baseman Mark McLemore, spent 2 1/2 hours on Martin Luther King Day preparing the grapefruit for distribution to families across North Texas. They took the grapefruit out of the big boxes and placed them in bags of four so they can be distributed directly to families as early as Tuesday.

"It's an important day in history," Choice said. "To be here today with these young kids and helping the community, it's definitely something that helps show what the day stands for."

The Rangers sponsor approximately 225 students in the Just Keep Livin program from Sam Houston, Pinkston and Diamond Hill Jarvis high schools in Fort Worth. Their volunteer work on Martin Luther King Day is one of their required service projects as part of being in the program.

"They are required to do one per semester but most end up volunteering for as many as six or seven projects," said Karin Morris, executive director of the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation.

"This shows we can give back to the community, that it's not all about receiving," McLemore said. "This shows the kids how they can become involved. It's a huge thing for them."

The North Texas Food Bank is a massive undertaking. The students were working inside a 100,000-square-foot warehouse stacked with donated food. The Food Bank has two warehouses in southwest Dallas, distributing food to 262 different agencies and approximately 1,000 feeding program over 13 counties in North Texas. That includes food programs in 340 local elementary schools. A staggering 800,000 people benefit from the Food Bank, which keeps going with the help of some 30,000 volunteers annually.

"It's wonderful that these kids came out today on a national day of service," said Jasmin Milz Holmstrup, director of corporate engagement. "We can't tell you how much we appreciate the Rangers doing this."

Besides grapefruit, there were countless boxes of donated food: soup and cereal, pasta and cheese-flavored crackers, jars of pickles and boxes of stuffing. There were also non-food items including diapers, paper towels, toilet paper, cold and flu medicine and children's toys.

"We don't solicit those items but we certainly take them," said Laura Hoagland, who also works at the Food Bank.

There were even bags of dog food.

"We saw some seniors giving their food away to dogs," Holmstrup said. "We want to make sure they are not giving their food away so we do take dog food."

The food comes from farms and manufacturers, government surplus agencies and major retail outlets. It also comes from food drives conducted by the Boys and Girls Scouts, service groups, churches and schools. Coppell and Highland Park High are among the schools that conduct major food drives for the cause.

The Food Bank is the heart of it all. It is at these two warehouses where volunteers like the students from Pinkston and Sam Houston make certain the countless number of donations and food drives directly benefit those who need it. When their work is done, the food will be loaded on to one of the 18-wheel trucks backed up to the loading docks and then taken directly to one of the many distribution points.

The Food Bank makes sure all the hard work and generosity by those who collect the food does not go to waste. One look inside the warehouse shows not only what a massive project it is to fight hunger, but also that the project actually works well.

"It shows you how fortunate most people are," Choice said. "When you see something like this, it shows you how you can impact people who aren't as fortunate."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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