Hunger is a hidden pain, and many families in the area know all too well how it feels to go through the day with nothing to eat.
As Bowie Middle School science teacher David Martinez states, "Hunger comes in many shapes, forms, and sizes. From young to old, hunger encompasses all and does not discriminate."
While compassion and conversation can raise awareness of hunger in the community, it takes action to fill stomachs and change lives.
And that's exactly what students in the Texas Panhandle are doing.
At nine high schools and eight middle schools in the Amarillo area, students are putting their time and money where their mouths are by volunteering their time and money with Snack Shak to help feed more than 600 students every week. In the process of helping others, these selfless volunteers also help themselves to skills and experiences that change their own lives.
Snack Shak partners with some of the country's largest brand-name food manufacturers. Students are able to place their orders online and receive a backpack filled with healthy, nutritious, and tasty food. This gives them greater control over their diet while also maintaining their privacy and upholding their dignity.
Volunteering with Snack Shak and other programs offered within Amarillo schools has positive impacts that go beyond simply helping those in need. It's as contagious as laughter and yawns during lectures and chants and cheers at football games.
Students, teachers, and others who volunteer help spread the joy service brings into their lives.
The effects of compassion on community engagement and involvement are not well studied; however, research conducted by Daniel Kahneman at Princeton University indicates that causal inference occurs when individuals associate themselves with others who volunteer their time, skills, and resources.
In other words, if you know someone who volunteers, there's a better chance you also will become a volunteer.
According to Martinez, that effect is very clear in Amarillo. "At Bowie Middle School, we have tried to teach our students to give more of themselves for the good of others,” Martinez said. That lesson is starting to resonate across campus and each day we are inspired by our students who continue to lead the way in setting the example. Students give up their time and energy to make sure their fellow students don't go without."
Volunteering also has a positive influence on classroom performance and academic achievement. Students who volunteer see significant growth in writing, logic, and leadership. These skills open doors to career opportunities. Moreover, volunteering also influences their career choices and encourages them to donate time and their own professional resources when they enter the workforce.
These changes can be seen at Bowie Middle School. Moriah Pearson and Morgan Martinez are regular Snack Shak volunteers. When asked what they get out of volunteering, the pair of eighth-grade students said, "We have been doing Snack Pak for two years, and we believe it is a great way to help people in need. Snack Pak allows us to help students in our school in a positive way. It allows them to get nutrition outside of school on the weekends. It has taught us responsibility and the importance of helping others."
The lessons learned through Snack Shak don't end with a diploma.
"Snack Shak provides students with a hands-on, real-life experience that many of them will never forget,” Martinez said. “They will carry what they have learned with them into high school and beyond. They are the future leaders, and if what I have seen is any indication of what our future holds, then I believe our future is indeed very bright."
Want to impower students and help fight weekend hunger in your community? Start a Snack Shak in your school? Click the button below to get started!