Mary Blake Meadows, longtime Highland Park resident and community volunteer, has a passion for helping others. Her latest project is tackling one of the most important issues in society: feeding the hungry.

            Three years ago, Meadows was sitting in church and read in the church bulletin that volunteers were needed to deliver donated foods from area restaurants to Brady Center, a food pantry that is part of Catholic Charities.

            Meadows made a commitment to pickup the unsold pizzas from a local Pizza Hut every Monday afternoon and drop them off at Brady Center. One day last summer, as she brought in some leftover food from a meeting she had attended, she walked in the pantry for the first time, and was shocked to see there was no food.

            Meadows said, “They serve 60 to 80 families a week, in eight different zip codes, and summer is the time that food is needed the most since children are not in school. I was horrified to think that there was no food in the pantry. I got with the executive director and he said he needed a shopper.” She saw a need to help and sprang into action.

            The first thing Meadows did was to meet the immediate demand by purchasing and donating food, and she solicited her friends to do the same. She has taken it upon herself to make sure that Brady Center has staple food items that people need. She said that a lot of the reason for the shortage of some basic items is due to the drought that is felt all over the country, which has affected crops such as peanuts and corn. The other factor is that the North Texas Food Bank, where local food pantries receive their supplies, has suffered a shortage of donations.

            These days, Meadows’ routine includes waking early on Wednesday mornings and checking all of the grocery store flyers at 6 a.m. to see which stores have the best prices on the items that Brady Center needs. Meadows said, “I always shopped for convenience, and now I am shopping for value.”

            She has become quite the expert. She avoids coupons that carry product limits, for example. But she has also learned how to look for unpublished sales when she walks through any grocery store. Mention the price on any basic food item, and she can recite the standard price and every deal of the week.

            Along the way, Meadows has learned how to overcome some basic challenges. For example, she faced a difficult time navigating full grocery carts. She discovered the concierge at Kroger, who works with customers who buy in bulk, and now emails her shopping list to the store.  When she arrives at the store for her order, the concierge’s team checks her out in Customer Service, packs everything in a cooler, and takes the groceries out to her car. One day when Meadows tried to tip one of the employees who brought her groceries out to her car, the employee refused. Meadows then held up her $10 bill and said, “You need to take this! Do you know why? Because I want you to remember my face the next time I come in here. I will need your help again.”

            If you would like to help feed local residents who face hunger, you can make a food or financial donation to Brady Center, 4009 Elm Street, Dallas, TX, 75226.