Current Stories

Other than our website, a great resource for understanding our work better is through the local media. Here are a few of the most recent profiles and mentions of SP4K.

  • Snack Pak 4 Kids kicks off their community garden to feed families in need

     

  • Snack Pak 4 Kids Marks 5 years by Expanding Outreach

     Amarillo Globe News Link

    Posted: September 24, 2015 - 8:20pm  |  Updated: September 24, 2015 - 9:52pm

    By BRAD NEWMAN

    For Amarillo Globe-News

    From a kitchen table to a mega-warehouse, one Amarillo entity has witnessed enormous response to its effort to provide food for hungry students in the region.

    Snack Pak 4 Kids began as a project for 10 kids at one elementary school. Five years later, the organization serves about 7,000 children and teenagers in 36 school districts.

    Snack Pak 4 Kids celebrated its five-year milestone earlier this week with a birthday party in which hundreds of supporters packed thousands of Snack Pak bags with food for children in need.

    “We see this as a real solution that tangibly impacts kids,” said founder Dyron Howell.

    Howell and his wife Kelly started Snack Pak 4 Kids in 2010. Howell, an oncology pharmaceutical sales representative, wanted to offer a way for hungry area schoolchildren to have access to food on the weekends.

    He developed a plan to anonymously place grocery bags of non-perishable, kid-friendly food items in the backpacks of kids who were identified by school personnel.

    “It’s about education,” he said. “If kids go 66 hours without food on the weekend, we can’t expect them to learn on Monday.”

    The initiative began with 10 students at Will Rogers Elementary School. Principal Terri Huseman, who now serves on the Snack Pak 4 Kids board of directors, was the first school administrator to partner with the organization.

    “It’s been amazing,” Huseman said. “Snack Pak 4 Kids has helped us be more aware of the needs of our students and know how to address those needs.”

    The campus now issues about 230 sacks of food per week to students.

    “The biggest progress we’re making is to increase awareness that weekend hunger exists, and it impacts education and learning,” Howell said.

    Reports from annual teacher surveys validate Howell’s claims, he said.

    “Teachers report seeing a difference in our kids,” he said. “It’s a program that removes education barriers.”

    The program has expanded to include distributions on middle school campuses and a variation of Snack Pak 4 Kids on high school campuses called Snack Shak.

    Snack Shak, a student-led initiative, allows students in need to use an online ordering system and anonymously retrieve food at the end of each week.

    Snack Pak 4 Kids also launched a franchise program in San Antonio in 2012, and all but three Amarillo Independent School District campuses distribute food through the program.

    The need to provide solutions for hungry students in the area has only increased, and each Snack Pak 4 Kids school requires dedicated sponsorships, Howell said. In many cases, businesses, civic organizations and churches have provided funding necessary to purchase food and pack and deliver bags. Sponsorships still are needed.

    The organization has plans to launch a Snack Shak in November at Palo Duro High School, a campus where about 150 students have indicated via survey they would benefit from the program.

    A garage sale fundraiser for the new Snack Shak is planned for this weekend.

    Bonnie Cowley, chairwoman of the American Association of Realtor’s Community Outreach Committee, said the association is committed to helping secure the
    Snack Shak program at Palo Duro.

    “We’re in it for the long haul,” Cowley said. “We’ll continue our efforts and know that, in the end, it will be successful because students will no longer be hungry.”

    The two other AISD schools awaiting sponsorships are Bowie Middle School and Sam Houston Middle School.

    With more than 4,000 volunteers serving with the organization in the past year, Howell’s enthusiasm has not wavered. He predicts continued growth for the organization in the next five years.

    The founder said he thinks the model Snack Pak 4 Kids has trademarked could be implemented in schools throughout the U.S.

    “We want to share our experience and knowledge with others so more kids can benefit,” he said. “The solution we created will work anywhere.”

    Snack Pak 4 Kids also will continue its emphasis on providing opportunities for students to serve, practice entrepreneurial skills, and develop leadership abilities on their campuses.

    “This entire organization is aimed at supporting kids,” Huseman said. “Who doesn’t want to rally around a cause like that?”

    How to go:

    What: Snack Pak 4 Kids Garage Sale Fundraiser

    When: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

    Where: 5601 Enterprise Circle

    Cost: Free

    More information: www.snackpak4kids.org

    Brad Newman can be reached at 806-345-3320 or brad.newman@amarillo.com.



  • Beilue: Snack Pak program explodes, but need remains

     http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2015-05-27/snack-pak-explosion

    By JON MARK BEILUE

    “Real hunger feels like having your insides crushed all together.” — Amarillo middle school student

    Suzanne Brantley stood at one end of a long table with an assembly line of people on each side in front of her. There’s eight tables, about 25 per table.

    That’s 200 volunteers working furiously at 5:45 p.m. on a Tuesday at a converted warehouse at 2406 S.W. Third Ave. Brantley is here often each week, but for most of the 200, there’s a waiting list for weekly volunteer slots.

    “My husband (Homer) and I were volunteering for America’s Promise at Margaret Wills (Elementary),” she said. “Pho was a little second-grader, and one day he said, ‘No food, no food. What I do? What I do?’ He was just in a panic.”

    The look of fear on that face eventually connected the Brantleys to Snack Pak 4 Kids, which has tapped into one of the underreported and often overlooked problems in Amarillo and beyond — childhood hunger.

    “The refrigerator is just as empty as your stomach. I know this because I was once hungry. No food except my school meals.” — Amarillo middle school student


    Last week marked the end of the fifth school year for Snack Pak 4 Kids. Dyron Howell, an oncology pharmaceutical sales representative, saw the need in 2010. It began on Sept. 2 of that year, weekend sack lunches on Friday sent to 10 children at Will Rogers Elementary.

    Today? Snack Pak’s growth is a testament to the overwhelming need and communities, churches and corporations that are fighting a hidden but very real problem.

    More than 3,700 weekend sack lunches for about 50 schools in Amarillo ISD are readied each week, as are more than 6,000 when 34 other school districts in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles are included.

    Snack Shaks are now in middle school and high schools, which are online and run by students. Ten Amarillo churches are now involved. Texas Cattle Feeders and Southwest Dairy Farmers have bought in, and corporations like Kellogg’s, Kraft and ConAgra Foods are about to jump on board.

    Snack Pak has stretched beyond the region. It began as a pilot program in San Antonio three years ago, and now it’s in seven schools in three of that city’s school districts — Northeast, Alamo Heights and San Antonio ISD.

    “I would eat no more than half my plate and give it to my younger siblings. My parents would cry because they felt like they let us down.” — Amarillo middle school student

    “The people here have got behind the theory that kids can’t learn if they’re hungry, and we’ve made it personal,” Howell said. “The other thing is we’re seeing a difference. So we’re not only providing a missing piece, which is food for the weekend, but teachers are seeing a tangible difference in the classroom.”

    The hearty sack lunches were chosen for the weekend to fill a crucial gap for those who either sign up or have a teacher recommend them for the Snack Pak program. Needy students can at least get free or reduced weekday meals during the school day.

    The sack lunches are delivered to schools on Wednesday or Thursday, and students pick them up on Friday as they leave.

    “If you eat over the weekend, you come back ready to learn,” Howell said. “We’ve surveyed teachers the last three years, and two-thirds in AISD say they’ve seen improved academic performance because of the program. Among middle school teachers, 98 percent want it back. That says a lot.

    “The reason, and it’s been stated many times because it’s true, is you can’t learn on an empty stomach. We’re trying to fix a third of the week where many have nothing viable and they come on Monday ready to learn.”

    “During lunch, a friend of mine eats everything on his foam plate. He then asks everyone at table range if they’re going to eat their apple, orange or whatever assorted fruit we have that day. This kid’s hunger is hunger at its finest, or at its worst.” — Amarillo middle school student

    On a Tuesday in late May, the parking lot in front of the 21,500-square-foot Snack Pak warehouse was full with more than 50 cars. Those who volunteered on this night signed up in February to produce about 4,500 sack lunches in just more than an hour.

    Since January, there have been about 1,700 volunteers and more than 3,000 since the start of the school year.

    “We let each volunteer make it their time, their moment,” Howell said. “You have businesses re-
    engaging with employees, churches making it a spiritual and purposeful thing, kids’ sports team where the lesson is to think beyond themselves. Walk around the room and each person has a story.”

    As summer approaches, Snack Pak will still feed 2,000 with help with distribution and pickup from schools hosting summer school, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, Maverick Club, Wesley Community Church, City Church and High Plains Food Bank.

    Though more than 3,700 lunches go out weekly in the school year at AISD, the challenge in late August will be to do more. There are four remaining schools that are not sponsored — Palo Duro, and the middle schools of Houston, Bowie and Allen.

    Howell estimates that’s 600 students who are “food insecure” over the weekend. Cost estimated to sponsor those four schools is $190,000.

    “It’s not a small investment,” said Howell. “When you make the kind of investment we have, you have to think big picture and long-term so you can sustain it.”

    Five years of growth for Snack Pak 4 Kids, and more still to go.

    “What does hunger mean to me? Well, I know how it feels and what you go through. It’s not pretty.” — Amarillo middle school student

    Jon Mark Beilue is an AGN Media columnist. He can be reached at jon.beilue@amarillo.comor 806-345-3318. His “Out of the Beilue” video series appears on amarillo.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jonmarkbeilue.


  • 2014 Snack Pak 4 Kids Highlight Video

    Snack Pak 4 Kids has grown to serve over 5,400 kids in 31 school districts in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains. We secured a new warehouse after 5 moves in 4 years thanks to the generous support of our community. Thank You for an amazing year!!!


  • Fannin Middle School Needs Your Help

    Culwell's_letter.pdf

    Fannin Middle School

    4627 S. Rusk

    Amarillo, TX 79110

     (806) 326-3500 

    To Whom It May Concern,

    This is my second year as the principal at Fannin Middle School. In the short time I have been here, I have witnessed what hunger can do to students as they attempt to be successful in school each day. I have had numerous conversations with parents who feel helpless because they cannot provide enough food for their children. They know their child needs to be more successful in school, or to behave better for his/her teacher, but ultimately they are more concerned about making sure their child eats. If these students are not properly nourished, they are unable to focus in class and be successful.

    Our faculty and staff are committed to doing whatever it takes to meet the needs of our students, and often times their needs have little to do with academics. Our staff understands the challenges that our students face when they go home after school and we strive to be a resource for our students even when they are not at school. Numerous faculty and staff members spend money out of their own pockets each week to ensure that our students do not go hungry.

    My vision for Fannin Middle School is to create a culture where our school is the center piece of our community. Where students, parents and community members all take ownership of Fannin and what happens on a daily basis. One of my proudest moments in my time at Fannin occurred this year at our 2nd Annual Back To School Tailgate Party. We have around 1500 students, parents and community members on our campus, celebrating our school and the future of our students. What I was most proud of were the folks that were in attendance who do not have students attending Fannin. They either heard about our celebration from our FACEBOOK page or from a neighbor, but they feel such a part of this school that they came out to show their support.

    I constantly preach to our students, faculty and staff about the importance of HOPE. Without it, you have nothing. My vision and my goal revolves around the idea of creating HOPE in our students and each other so we can visualize the impossible and work together to achieve it. Many of our students don’t have HOPE. They have not been successful at school and many come from broken homes or dysfunctional homes. They need stability, and most of all, they need HOPE. Snack Pak 4 Kids offers HOPE to students who know they will be searching for food the entire weekend. It gives them peace of mind knowing that they don’t have to worry about food, they can be kids for the weekend.

    Fannin is also committed to creating a culture where parents are part of the day to day operations of our school. We believe parents are a vital part of education and we are working closely with many parents to find ways for them to get involved at Fannin. Snack Pak 4 Kids is a perfect opportunity to have parents get involved in meeting the needs of our students. We have wonderful parents at Fannin and they want to be involved. In my opinion, this is the ideal way for parents, and the community to get involved.

    Leadership is also a focus at Fannin. We challenge our students to step up and be leaders no matter what they do. In the classroom, on the court and on the field, we push our students to excel. Last year, I had two students who both came from very challenging circumstances. They had been listening to our faculty and staff talk about leadership and helping others. One of these students approached me and asked if she could start a coats closet for students who cannot afford coats for the winter time. She said she wanted to do this because, “I have been homeless before and I don’t want anyone to have to deal with what I had to deal with.” The same day, the other student caught me in the hall and simply said, “I want to do something for other students who are in need.” I connected these two students with a teacher, and today we have a coats closet that is growing and it ensures that students have a warm coat to wear when the weather gets cold. This story to me exemplifies the idea that students can drive change and be leaders. We strive to provide as many opportunities for our students to make a difference at their school and in their community. Our students care for each other and our students, along with our parents, will drive Snack Pak 4 Kids and all the other great service programs that are going on at Fannin. I believe these experiences will benefit our students far beyond middle school.

    Fannin Middle School is moving forward with Snack Pak 4 Kids. We will find a way to make sure it is funded for our students because we know the impact it will have on them personally and their education. We are committed to meeting the needs of our students and we believe that Snack Pak 4 Kids is a natural fit for our campus as we work to reach more students who have needs outside of school.

    Sincerely,
    Nathan Culwell
    Principal, Fannin Middle School



     

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