Got Food? Picnic in the Park Starts 15th Season of Feeding Kids 

click to enlarge MICAH DREW
  • Micah Drew
As Antoine Turner approached a line of children at Boise’s Cassia Park Monday afternoon, anxious to meet the Boise State football star, the star athletes appeared to grow larger and larger until he towered over the kids. The Boise State defensive tackle was on hand to help launch Picnic in the Park, a program he has great fondness for because Turner grew up with homelessness and hunger, and knows all-to-well the importance of children knowing where their next meal will come from.

But the serious issue was brushed aside briefly as Turner cracked jokes and encouraged the kids to play games, read books and enjoy a free meal.

“Flex!” shouted one young fan to Turner as the boy tried to fit his hands around Turner’s bicep.

Turner was on hand to assist the Idaho Foodbank begin its 15th annual Picnic in the Park outreach program where more than 50,000 meals are expected to be served over the course of the summer at 26 locations around Boise.

“These organizations that are trying to reach out to kids are amazing to me,” said Turner. The Foodbank partners with Boise Parks and Recreation, Idaho State Department of Education, and the Boise School District to provide free lunches for any child under 18. The program serves lunches Monday through Friday and anticipates 1,000-1,200 meals being served a day.

Boise City Councilman TJ Thomson said he was particularly happy about the partnership the city has with the program.

“These are folks that only have meals at school and summer comes along and then there’s nothing,” Thomson said.

click to enlarge Antoine Turner enjoys Story Time with the kids at the June 8 Picnic in the Park. - MICAH DREW
  • Micah Drew
  • Antoine Turner enjoys Story Time with the kids at the June 8 Picnic in the Park.
As Thomson spoke with Boise Weekly, Turner was several feet away with the kids enjoying story time.Turner is no stranger to having nothing. The BSU junior garnered national attention for his story of growing up, and attending college, while homeless. He said he enjoyed the chance to give back to the community and relate to the kids in the park.

“When you’re young you have a lot of energy… you want to run around. You know, not eating steals that type of joy," he told BW. "I remember days when I didn’t want to do that because I didn’t eat and it was horrible.”

Energy didn’t seem to be lacking at the park. One of the kids that couldn’t stay still was the daughter of Serena Croft, who told Boise Weekly about her own struggle with medical debts after her daughter was born, and how she and her husband worried about feeding their two kids. “

As a parent, wondering how to feed your kid is scary,” Croft said, adding that she brought her kids to Picnic in the Park a lot during the hard times. “There were times we came every single day because it was one meal a day I didn’t have to worry about buying.”

Monday’s inaugural lunch consisted of turkey and cheese sandwiches, apple slices, carrot sticks and a carton of milk.

“I loved it man,” said Turner. “It’s gonna keep me going for about ten minutes or so.”
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