HALE CENTER, TX (KCBD) - Down the line, they go – pairs of caring hands sifting through crates full of hope.
"We can pack 350 to 400 bags in less than 20 minutes," Elaine Barrett said.
Barrett is one of several people who volunteer for "Snack Pak 4 Kids," an initiative that aims to combat child hunger. Almost 30 percent of children in Texas are classified as "food insecure" by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Snack Pak addresses this growing problem by providing elementary-aged students kid-friendly snacks not only during the school year, but through the summer as well.
"They're going to make it through [the] weekend, and we're going to give them hope and let them know that there's somebody there [who] really cares about them," site coordinator Ana Rey said.
Snack Pak is an effort that spans through different cities across the Texas Panhandle. Rey brought the program to Hale Center this past April and modeled it after the program's branch in nearby Plainview, TX.
Rey's army of about 60 to 70 volunteers pack snacks once a week and volunteer their own time for their own reasons.
Gary Bizell packs for a student who he helped revive almost 50 years ago when he was teaching in Ralls, TX.
"I picked him up and took him to the nurse's office and she said, 'Oh, it's nothing. He's just hungry,'" Bizell said. "Several of the teachers in that building went to the lunchroom and we said, 'No kid goes hungry in Ralls.'"
Alexis Atwood volunteers for the smiles she brings to the students she currently teaches. Teachers are informed of the students who are a part of the program and are responsible for placing the sacks inside their backpacks privately, when the students are out of the classroom for lunch.
"They were so excited to see these bags with all these different snacks and foods in them," Atwood said. "They look forward to it every Friday."
The series of heart-felt letters tacked on the Snack Pak workroom's wall are what keep Barrett going.
"We have 40 children now that we are on our summer program for Snack Pak, and it seems like every time we come together to pack, it grows."
Different circumstances lead these people to their workroom; but as they go through box after box, the same thought prevails.
"All of this is about kids," Rey said.
People interested in taking part in the program can pay $133 to adopt a child for one year; $14 for one month; and $3.50 for one week. Donations will go straight to the Snack Pak 4 Kids branch in Amarillo, so you would need to indicate that it is for the Hale Center branch.
To learn more about the program, visit its website: http://snackpak4kids.org/.