The Classroom Teacher, spring 2014

When she saw a need at her school, TCTA member Susan Hurt found a way to help fill it.

“I had a little boy in my class who had a voracious appetite,” she says. “He would come back to school on Monday and it seemed like he had nothing to eat. He would beg for seconds. One day in the lunchroom, we literally saw him licking his plate.”

The fourth-grade teacher in Plainview ISD was bothered by what she saw, and she shared the story with friends in Amarillo. They asked if she had heard of a local organization called Snack Pak 4 Kids.

The model, founded by Amarillo businessman Dyron Howell, helps communities provide weekend hunger intervention for needy students. With their basic needs met, the students are able to focus and learn at school.

Hurt spoke with Plainview administrators about Snack Pak 4 Kids, and now, thanks to a partnership, the district will join 26 other communities across the Texas Panhandle using the Snack Pak 4 Kids model, helping to break the cycle of weekend hunger for more than 5,000 children.

Teachers, nurses, counselors and other school personnel have helped identify nearly 500 children in the elementary program alone who will soon be assured of having something to eat on the weekends. (Snack Pak 4 Kids also provides food for any siblings who aren’t yet old enough to attend school.)

“Teachers sing the praises of this program,” Hurt says, noting that it has helped improve student behavior and academic performance.

Until Snack Pak begins in Plainview in fall 2014, teachers and others at the school are doing what they can to gather food and send it home with the neediest students on campus, but she says already the students seem more excited about coming to school and are seeing teachers as allies, so she feels more optimistic.

“I had been very discouraged until I found Snack Pak 4 Kids. It’s given me hope,” Hurt says. “You see this huge problem and ask yourself what can one person do. But, one by one, if we can reach out to put food in their hands, give them an education, and make them want to be back at school … if we can save even 20 kids out of 500 who can break that cycle of poverty and go on and live better lives than their parents, then it’s worth it.”

To do that, programs like Snack Pak 4 Kids rely on the generosity of their communities. Baptist Community Services provides the administrative and infrastructure support for Snack Pak 4 Kids.

Volunteers, many of them students age 5 to 18 themselves, package the snacks and deliver them to schools to be placed into the backpacks. This allows 100 percent of donations to go toward food.

To keep this going, Hurt has one plea: “Communities must join hands and recognize that these children are our future. Educational reform is a huge issue, but feeding a hungry kid so he can learn — now that’s pretty simple! I applaud my community for doing just that.”

Learn more about Snack Pak 4 Kids at snackpak4kids.org.

See also:

Teachers deal with the prevalence of poverty

7 ways to help students in poverty