Snack Pak 4 Kids Gears up for Summer

Posted: June 3, 2014 - 5:15pm

By Amanda
Some people say it as they stare into an open fridge. Others groan as they peer into the cupboard.

“There’s nothing to eat.”

Most times, “nothing” just means “not what I want” or “I don’t feel like cooking.” But for more than 40,000 people in the Amarillo area, it’s possible that “nothing” actually means just that — nothing.

According to a 2012 Feeding America report, 40,350 people in Potter and Randall counties don’t know when or from where their next meal will come. Of those, 15,670 are children who have little or no control over their situation.

That’s where Snack Pak 4 Kids comes in.

This summer, Snack Pak 4 Kids will work in conjunction with the city of Amarillo and local churches to deliver bags filled with nutritious snacks to parks and other locations across the city. Founder Dyron Howell said children will be able to pick up a bag of food each Friday, no questions asked.

“We just give it to the kids. It’s food. What’s the worst a kid can do?” Howell said. “That’s how we’ve chosen to approach this.”

Volunteers with the organization, created in September 2010, work to stave off weekend hunger for area children throughout the school year by providing the packs every Friday.

Students are referred by teachers in elementary and middle schools and self-referred if they are in high school.

Howell and his wife, Kelly, started the program by packing bags in their kitchen for 10 children at Will Rogers Elementary School. The program now provides for 5,200 kids in 30 communities across the Texas Panhandle, 3,200 of whom attend schools in Amarillo.

This is the program’s third summer operating in Amarillo. Some communities, like Pampa and Fritch, will provide packs for their second summer this year. Others, like Dumas, will provide summer packs for the first time.

Howell said they initially thought they would feed 1,600 children in Amarillo, more than 500 more than last summer. They recently brought the number up to 2,000, just to be on the safe side, he said.

“We’re committed to helping,” he said. “It’s just a matter of securing funding.”

It takes $35 to sponsor a child for the summer. Howell said there are about 100 children left that need funding. Howell said there’s still a significant gap between the children they are able to help during the school year and the ones they can reach once summer vacation begins.

“What about those other 1,200 kids?” he said.

Volunteers are preparing for any additional children by packing 6,000 bags this week, Howell said. While they usually only pack bags every other Tuesday, they will do two packs this week, on Wednesday and Thursday, at their new warehouse at 2406 S.W. Third Ave.

People volunteer alone or in groups to help pack bags, said Howell.

Sergio Brieiesca joined fellow Bank of America employees at the last packing session May 20.

“We wanted to partake, especially when we hear about the good they’re doing for the community and the kids,” said Brieiesca.

“(Hunger) is an awful thing to have during the summer.”

From 150 to 200 volunteers consistently help at each pack. Even youngsters pitch in, helping with everything from packing bags to clearing boxes as they are emptied of snacks.

“I think it’s a nice thing to do for all the kids that don’t have food,” said Jacob Hewes, 11.

Upcoming events, like summer packing sessions and the organization’s second annual corn harvest, will be announced as the summer progresses. Those who would like to help can follow Snack Pak 4 Kids on Facebook or follow @snackpak4kids on Twitter, Howell said.

This September, 500 children in Plainview will join the program, and Howell said they hope to have enough sponsors to start the program at Caprock High School.

“Why not solve this problem of weekend hunger when you’ve got a solution that works?” he said.

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