While holiday vacation means time away from school for students, for some it can also mean time away from food.
“It gives me a knot in my stomach to think that kids are going to go two weeks,” said Dyron Howell, founder of Snack Pak 4 Kids. “Not because they don’t get gifts, or they’re not going to have a turkey or whatever. They dread the holidays because it’s not lunch and breakfast every day at school.”
That’s why Snack Pak 4 Kids, an organization aimed at fighting weekend hunger stocked up for weeks to feed thousands of students across the High Plains.
“We already send home three or four bags just here in Amarillo every week,” Howell said. “All of a sudden, now you’re sending home six to eight-thousand bags or even ten to twelve-thousand bags.”
And the bags aren’t filled with just any kind of food. Howell says the organization only provides quality meals.
“When we pick the items for this menu, we actually taste-tested everything cold,” Howell said.
He said this is for the students who may not have appliances to heat-up their food.
“We have purposely taste-tested every single item without utilities, right out of the can, to make sure what we give them is something we would eat ourselves,” Howell said.
And along with those items, students also take home a jar of peanut butter.
“Many people think, ‘Really? You’re giving a jar of peanut butter at Christmas or Thanksgiving?’ Yes. Kids need protein. So it is a stable source of protein these kids can have,” Howell said.
Students also get a sleeve of saltine crackers.
“The Saltines don’t expire, they don’t have an expiration date,” Howell said. “They’re much more stable than a loaf of bread.”
And though the organization’s focus is on the child’s stomach, the brain also reaps the benefits.
“Let’s be real,” Howell said. “After they’ve been gone for two weeks over a holiday, the level of learning is very much diminished when they come back. So, if we can provide that protein and that source for those kids, it can make a difference.”
Howell said they help around 7,000 students on the High Plains and more than 3,000 in Amarillo alone. But those numbers only reveal so much. Howell said when they surveyed students, 90 percent said they share their food with family.