|Texas church gets after-school snacks to needy kids|
Holley Williams (left) and Ronnie Crowley pack
after-school snacks for needy children as part of the Snack Sacks
ministry of Arborlawn United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. UMNS
photos by John Gordon.
By John Gordon*
Nov. 14, 2007 | FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS)
As plastic bags are passed down a makeshift assembly line, volunteers
stuff them with juice, pudding, cereal bars, fruit snacks and other
Members of Arborlawn United Methodist Church in Fort Worth are
filling snack sacks for needy elementary and middle-school students who
might not have access to meals when they go home.
"I think a lot of people don’t understand how many children are at
risk … (and) not getting fed," said Veronica "Ronnie" Crowley, an
Arborlawn member who came up with the idea for a "snack sack" ministry
Many students who receive the snacks qualify for free or reduced-price
breakfast and lunch in school cafeterias. However, their after-school
nutrition sometimes depends on family economics.
Children eat lunch at Oakmont Elementary School, one of
three Forth Worth schools served by the church food ministry.
"Imagine, as a child, to go home every night after school, and you’re
not going to eat until you get breakfast the next morning," said
Crowley. "Then you have the weekend, and that’s an even bigger stretch."
Empty stomachs, poor grades
Church members deliver about 60 snack sacks every week to three
schools, where teachers identify which students could use them the most.
Every Friday, school counselors discreetly slip the bags into students’
The counselors praise the ministry, explaining that empty stomachs can lead to poor grades.
"If children are hungry, they can’t learn very well," said Lane
Poole, a counselor at Oakmont Elementary School, located near the
church. "And if they’re thinking about their stomach growling, then they
don’t do very well in school at all."
Schools also receive enough snack sacks to send home to other hungry
family members. "A lot of them have siblings that are not in school yet,
maybe 2 or 3 years old," said Poole. "And we give them a snack sack for
their little brothers and sisters."
“If children are hungry, they can’t learn very well.”
Most of the food is donated by Arborlawn members, but several
businesses also hold food drives to support the ministry. There's no
shortage of volunteers to pack the bags.
"I love getting together with different people from the congregation
and packing snack sacks. It’s something everybody enjoys," said church
member Kristi Burdette. "Kids having food to eat is something that
everybody can feel great about."
Karen Fox, who helped Crowley start the ministry, said hungry
children can be found even in schools that appear affluent. "If you ask
most of the parents at Tanglewood Elementary School, they would tell you
absolutely, no way, there’s not a kid here (who is hungry.) And there
are kids there," she said.
About 12 million children in the United States — or 17 percent — lived
in "food insecure" households in 2005, according to the Federal
Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. Food insecurity means
there is not always enough food in the household for a healthy, active
School counselor Lane Poole puts a snack sack in a student's backpack.
"I don’t think there should be any child out there who goes hungry. We have such wealth here," said Crowley.
The snack sack ministry operates anonymously, so church members never
meet the children they help. However, Holley Williams, who oversees the
program now, says students often write notes of thanks. "One little
girl wrote that she was moving out of town and she said, 'Is there any
way you can still bring me snack sacks?'" recalls Williams.
Arborlawn members hope other congregations will start similar
ministries. A former member who moved to nearby Cleburne started a
similar project there in 2006.
Crowley hopes the snacks will feed more than empty stomachs.
"If we can make that small difference, make that child loved in that
small way," she said, "then maybe that will help them in the future."
*Gordon is a freelance writer and producer in Marshall, Texas.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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