Hereford Brand Story January 20, 2012

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 Snack Pak asks community to step up to plate, literally


Posted by: hbrand - 01/20/12   

By C.E. Hanna, BRAND Staff Writer

It’s a phenomenon that you’ve likely never experienced. The initial rumblings deep within the stomach that slowly grows in volume and severity until they become audible to others before ceasing, at last, on the third day.

The gnawing of genuine hunger stopped on a Sunday afternoon; not from satisfaction, but exasperation as the body has grown tired of its pleas going unheeded and unfulfilled.

For an estimated 800 children in Hereford and Deaf Smith County, the unfathomable is a reality.

Hereford Snack Pak 4 Kids hopes to expand their program until it can fulfill the most fundamental of needs for every child that experiences hunger over the weekends.

“Teachers, counselors and administrators are on the look out for the signs of real hunger,” Jerry O’Connor said.

“It could be a kid that cleans his plate and peers over at his neighbor’s to see if there is anything that he can have. It could be a little girl that fills her pockets so that she has something to eat later. If they’re hysterical on Monday morning because the bus was late and they missed breakfast, that is a sign that they’re hungry,” O’Connor explained.

“Hungry kids are not in a position to learn and they may have a tendency to act out, but what else would you expect?” O’Connor asked somewhat rhetorically.

Snack Pak 4 Kids is a program whereby students are required to bring their backpacks, many of which have been provided by businesses and private donors, to school and hang them up on Thursday.

Volunteers discreetly fill the backpacks with non-perishable foodstuffs that can be easily opened by even the youngest of children and the kids tote them home on Friday afternoons.

“We try to select food items that are high in protein, but that aren’t loaded with fat,” O’Connor noted.

“The banks and credit unions have stepped up and they have gone so far as to host food-specific drives. This bank will collect juice boxes and that bank will collect pop-tarts.”

Despite the support from these contributors, O’Connor is concerned that it isn’t enough and encourages other companies, service organizations and individuals to follow suit.

“Truly,” O’Connor entreated, “we need eight-hundred sponsors. I would love to have a family come in and say ‘put me down for two,’ or have someone say ‘put my company down for ten.’”

“I would love to see it become a friendly competitive venture between businesses. ‘If that store is going to sponsor six kids, then my store is going to sponsor seven.’”

Sponsorship for an individual child cost $133 per year and O’Conner added that he is happy to bill quarterly, biannually or annually.

“Those that want to take any contributions off of their taxes can come in and make a check payable to Panhandle Community Services or the Lions Club. That money is filtered through these organizations and every penny comes back to Hereford.”

Administrative costs for the program are absorbed by Snack Pak 4 Kids volunteer staff.

The Lions Club weekly luncheon is where O’Connor first heard of the children’s needs and he has since taken it on as a personal project.

“My wife says that I’ve become obsessed,” O’Connor admitted, “and I guess that maybe I have, but it’s a positive obsession.”

“When I speak to people about this program, the first thing I hear is that it is the parents’ responsibility to feed their children and I can’t argue with that.”

“We are not an agency of government or law. We don’t have the means to fix the parents, but we can fix this.”

“Besides,” O’Connor continued, “if you report on the family and the kids are taken away or the parents get locked up, then you didn’t solve the problem. All you did was to move it around.”

For more information on how you can literally step up to the plate and prevent childhood hunger in Hereford and Deaf Smith County, please contact Krista Lee at 336-7904 or kristalee@herefordisd.net or Jerry O’Connor at 679-6889 or jloconnor@gmail.com.

 

 

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