Food prices are on the increase, and for some families, affording a good meal is getting harder. But last Tuesday, several parents didn’t have to wonder what to serve for dinner or how much it would cost after the owners of the Walthourville Meat Market treated Liberty County School System students to a free meal.
Meat market owners Ronald and Nicole De-Leon were happy to share plates of beef or chicken tacos, chicken nuggets and plenty of sides during the event, which ran from 4–7 p.m. Ronald DeLeon said they served more than 500 meals to patiently waiting kids.
“The line was outrageous,” he said. “It was down the block, and even throughout the rain, everybody was still here. I know I made a lot of people happy yesterday. All the kids were really enjoying it.”
“I don’t have to cook tonight for the kids, and it saves us some money,” said Amy Wendt, who was picking up food for her two kids.
“Thank you, Ronald, for this,” said Romanda Stewart. “It means everything. You are supporting the community.”
“I think this is awesome,” said Deandra Harris. “This is a great place, and their food is amazing. I love events like this, especially for the kids going back to school. Things are tough with COVID. Food is expensive and expenses are through the roof, so I think this is awesome.”
“I just thought it was amazing,” said Summer Buerger. “On the second day of school they are providing parents a free night and doing this for the community and the kids. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
DeLeon said he can relate to the rising prices of food and the importance of feeding young children.
“I have kids of my own. … I always try to give back,” he said. “And I figured this would be something nice to give to the community.”
Walthourville Mayor Larry Baker and his wife, Brenda, stopped by to lend their support, as did the city’s police chief, Al Hagan.
“I spend a lot of time working with kids, and to see them (the DeLeons) constantly in the community, not just this event, but many other events that people may not realize … to see this today is unbelievable,” Hagan said.
“I heard about it and came here expecting to see maybe five or six kids, and right now we have close to 50 or more, and I don’t know how many have already come through, and they are patiently serving them.
“We are thankful for our business owners in our community. That is why, as the police chief, I constantly talk about community, and this is what community is all about. Glad to see it.”
DeLeon said he was humbled by the outpouring of support from city officials and loyal customers. “It makes me feel really good,” he said. “It makes me feel like I am part of the community. I really love serving my community. I’ve been here since 2004, and I like to show love to the community and give back all the time.”
DeLeon said he has plans for renovations in the store and parking lot, and he’s looking forward to his next venture with the opening of Latin Dreams, a new restaurant off General Screven Way at the site of the former Cici’s Pizza.
“Latin Dreams is going to be a destination place. It’s going to be an upscale restaurant with seafood, Latin food, a full bar and VIP rooms,” he said.
Latin Dreams is expected to open the second week of September.