How Snack Shak Gave Me Purpose: Maddie Jensen's SP4K Story

BY Maddie Jensen | 9-20-2017

Maddie Jensen.jpgWhen my principal asked for my help in seventh grade, I never could have anticipated the journey I was about to begin. Because of my “go-getter attitude,” as she called it, she wanted me to join her and a few other students for a test run.


That test run was my middle school helping deliver Snack Pak 4 Kids bags to an elementary school with a significant percentage of students on free and reduced lunch.


Two years later, as a freshman at Tascosa High School, I knew we could start a high school version of Snack Pak. Because of my exposure to kids facing hunger when I was in middle school, I joined FISH Club, Friends in Service for Hunger.  


Dyron Howell, the SP4K founder, came to FISH Club and presented the idea to us. He explained we would have to be patient, but we wanted to start the next week. Eventually, with his and other faculty members’ patience and guidance, the pieces fell together, and Snack Shak was born. The communities of Tascosa and Amarillo, led by high school students, came together to make it happen.


There were always challenges.


Where will we keep the food?


How will we deliver it?


How will we maintain anonymity?


But with time and teamwork, all the problems were solved. Soon, we were feeding more than 50 students a week, had moved into a portable classroom building, and had groups coming from across the country to learn about Snack Shak.


The scope of what we were doing did not really hit me until a group from San Antonio came. The group wanted to see what my friends and I were doing; they were interested in what “regular” high school students could accomplish.


As I was speaking with them, I realized I didn’t want them to leave with the desire to implement Snack Shak in their school just because they could.


Rather, I wanted them to see how this program had impacted my community. It was then that I began to see what Snack Pak and Snack Shak had done for me.

Snack Pak Is More Than Just Packing & Delivering Bags

Sustainability is one of the most admirable qualities of Snack Pak and Snack Shak. New programs often have initial momentum and support but fail to retain that momentum and support over time. This is necessary for a program to be successful.


Snack Pak and Snack Shak are sustainable because of the impact the programs make on so many people – both on the volunteers and the recipients.


kids-walking-snack-shak-belonging.jpgYes, kids get food for the weekend, but it is so much more than that. Snack Pak helps teens belong. The students receiving food know someone at their school cares about them. They see their peers and teachers helping them succeed — and they do succeed.


The teachers see both sides: They see students working hard to help other students and their own students benefitting from the food. The volunteer group reaps the reward of knowing they are performing an important service, and others want to become a part of something meaningful.


I feel honored to have been a part of the foundation of the program and have enjoyed the ride as the program developed and grew. I saw my community come together to serve a greater good, saw my peers succeed and grow personally, and saw my high school transform into a home for everyone involved.


Snack Shak is so much more than packing and delivering bags once a week. I never thought delivering bags one Thursday afternoon would have such a profound impact on my life. I wouldn’t have guessed I would still be trying to do it seven years later in a different city. I couldn’t have imagined how Snack Shak would make me treasure the community I grew up in so deeply. I couldn’t have known how much Snack Shak would help me to grow as a person.


But it did. Snack Shak has proven that regular folks can come together, overcome obstacles, and fill a need that not only sustains individual recipients but develops a sense of community.


Maddie Jensen is a sophomore at Southern Methodist University, where she is studying biochemistry with plans to go into research. She is also a project leader for the service organization Mustang Heroes, where she takes a group of SMU students to volunteer with organizations similar to Snack Pak 4 Kids.


Maddie is a graduate of Tascosa High School. During her time at THS, she was the President of the Friends in Service for Hunger Club. FISH Club was the first group to implement the high school program Snack Shak.


You can make a difference in the lives of students at your school. Join your school's Snack Shak. Or, click the button below to learn how to start a Snack Shak in your high school.

START A SNACK SHAK

Topics: Volunteer, Stories, Snack Shak