Snack Shak battles teen hunger in the Panhandle


Snack Shak battles teen hunger in the Panhandle

by Chelsea Goss                                                                                                                                                       AMARILLO, TEXAS -- Dyron Howell, president of Snack Pak 4 Kids, believes that Snack Shak is not a food bank, its an educational tool. The goal of the program is to help hungry teens refocus on what is going onclassroom instead of worrying about where their next meal is coming from.

Snack Shak is an anonymous organization that provides students with food and a process that allows students to choose a teacher that will hold the food, until the student feels comfortable to retrieve it. The main difference between Snack Paks for younger children and the Snack Shak is the portion size, with the Snack Shak program catering to those growing and ravenous teens.

“As we all get older I mean everybody’s food bill goes up if you’ve got teenagers. The portion sizes are very different. These are items that kids can prepare as teens are able to prepare their meals they are able to prepare what they need, so these are adult sized portions,” said Howell. “And what’s unique is they determined what they want. So we haven’t pre-determined what goes in their bag. So we give these kids a chance to choose the items that they want.”

It also aims to eliminate the insecurities of teen hunger through anonymity and being able to self-refer, instead of needing to be referred by a teacher, like the program requires for elementary and middle school students.

The Snack Pak program created the solution to teen hunger in the Panhandle area through student team leadership and allowed the student to voice their opinions on what they wanted to see and what they thought would be most beneficial for themselves or their peers. One of the main components the students insisted on was using technology, being able to access the form easily via the internet and keeping anonymity.

“So it’s a unique approach all the way around, not just by what we offer in the bag, but for these students to serve themselves and yet be anonymous to everyone in the school,” said Howell.

The program offers that anonymity through a discreet form that can be found by clicking on a tab on the school’s website, for either Tascosa or Amarillo High School. Students then input their student ID, ensuring that they remain anonymous, even to faculty members running the program at the school, and their food requests are delivered from the Snack Pak 4Kids warehouse to a specific teacher chosen by the student.

The program was so successful in its first year at Tascosa and Amarillo High that in a May 2014 survey, 98% of faculty and staff said that they wanted the program back again and that it was beneficial to the school.

Now, Caprock High School is working to match a $20,000 grant from an Austin foundation, dollar for dollar, so that they can bring Snack Shak to their school as well. Caprock is currently fundraising to bring the program to the school.

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