My personal poster child for Snack Pak 4 Kids is a wiry, hyperactive little boy named Josiah. Josiah was always the first to attack the breakfast cooler each Monday morning in my third-grade classroom. At first, I treated him like any other ADHD child who simply couldn’t sit still, always begging his classmates for leftovers, bugging me to pass out the snacks early… but finally, I realized there was much more to his story.
Although his outward appearance didn’t fit the stereotype of a child from food insecurity, after I dug deeper, I soon learned that he was left home totally alone to fend for himself on weekends spent with his dad. In addition to causing hyperactivity and learning disorders, hunger was also playing a vital role in his low academic performance, especially on Mondays. It was while expressing my concern for Josiah with some Amarillo friends that I first heard about Snack Pak 4 Kids.
I contacted Dyron Howell and began to research more about the model. Although he had approached Plainview school administrators several years earlier, no one had determined that the need was real at that time. Then, in 2012, our community felt the hit when the large Cargill plant closed, leaving many families without work. In the meantime, I had moved to another campus, where teachers were feeding kids out of their own pockets through a program started by a cafeteria monitor concerned about evidence of hunger she witnessed daily.
We knew it was time to take a stand for hungry kids across our district. We took a busload of 30 plus community leaders, PISD administrators, and local educators to the warehouse in Amarillo to attend a SP4K Training and watch a packing. Each of us left inspired and motivated to bring the model to our community!
Since we started packing bags in 2013, we have grown from a small handful of volunteers into a united team, all with one common goal: to give a voice to hungry kids and to end weekend hunger in Plainview, TX. Civic groups, businesses, churches, university students, sports teams, families, and people of all ages now rally together under the Snack Pak 4 Kids banner!
On any given Tuesday night, our warehouse hosts over 50 volunteers, laughing, competing to beat the clock, snapping pictures, giving their time to pack bags for over 500 elementary students. We now have Snack Shak at our middle schools and high schools, where student volunteers pack for 150 of their peers.
Snack Pak 4 Kids has changed the mindset of a community of 22,000 who now generously donate, willingly volunteer, and enthusiastically join the movement to end weekend hunger so kids can learn. But, of course, the biggest impact comes from the families themselves.
When a grandmother stops a teacher in the hall to thank her for the bag which helps her provide for the grandchildren she is raising. When a local policeman shares the story of a home where four neglected siblings were surviving on Snack Paks alone. When a local hotel calls in desperation to ask if three children abandoned at their facility could get Snack Paks. Along with the countless other stories that we never hear, these moments demonstrate the real impact of Snack Pak 4 Kids!
If your community is considering starting a Snack Pak 4 Kids program, take some time to talk to teachers about their students. Most will tell you that there are hungry kids in your community, too, and members of your community will respond when you tell the kids’ stories. And, with the SP4K Training Program, Dyron and his team can provide the infrastructure and support you need to sustain your program.
Snack Pak 4 Kids is the most organized, proven approach to providing weekend hunger intervention and putting quality food into the hands of children so hunger is no longer in their weekend equation.
When I’m asked if it’s worth it, when I question the time spent, think about the money needing to be raised, or deal with the minor problems that arise when working with the public, all I have to do is walk the halls of Plainview schools on a Friday afternoon and look into the faces of the kids with Snack Paks in their hands. I’m then very certain.
Yes, it is well worth it.
After growing up in Dalhart, TX; graduating from Baylor University; marrying her college sweetheart in 1977; and joining a multigenerational agricultural family; Susan and husband David raised two sons on the farm near Plainview, TX.
Her desire to become a teacher stemmed from her own son’s struggles with ADHD and gave her a heart to read between the lines to see what actually lies behind low student academic performance.
Susan introduced the Snack Pak 4 Kids model to PISD administration in 2013, and currently serves as Plainview site coordinator for the program which feeds over 750 elementary and high school students each weekend. After a 30 year teaching career, she is now retired and enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren, serving as a life group and prayer group leader in her local church, boating and gardening.
Like Susan, you can create a sustainable hunger relief program for kids in your community. Starting a Snack Pak 4 Kids may seem overwhelming, but it's also incredibly rewarding — both for you, the volunteers, and the countless hungry kids you'll impact.
Ready to get started? Sign up for a SP4K Training today and see how the program works first hand, hear honest stories from volunteers and kids, and get the tools you need to change kids' lives!