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.



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