Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church’s Sack Pack program recently received $5,250 in grants to help address the problem of child hunger in the community. Church leaders say they are …
Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church’s Sack Pack program recently received $5,250 in grants to help address the problem of child hunger in the community.
Church leaders say they are thankful for a $5,000 grant from the Holston Conference Foundation and a $250 grant from Volunteer Energy Cooperative which will help keep more children fed.
The Sack Pack program provides bags of easy-to-prepare food items to local schoolchildren who do not have access to food at home. Partnering with local schools, volunteers prepare bags of food for children to take them home each Friday, which allows them to eat over the weekend.
“Right now, we’re packing up to 400 bags a week,” said Diana Whittle, coordinator of the Sack Pack program. “A lot of these kids have little or nothing to eat over the weekend, when they can’t eat breakfast or lunch at school. Some say they’ll have lunch at school Friday and not eat until Monday morning.”
The program currently serves students at six schools: Arnold Memorial Elementary, Blythe-Bower Elementary, George R. Stuart Elementary, Donald P. Yates Primary, Cleveland Middle School and GOAL Academy.
School representatives determine how many students are in need of this program and share their totals with the church. Volunteers then pack the bags with food purchased from the Chattanooga Area Food Bank.
Each bag typically contains items like milk, juice, cereal, granola bars, applesauce, instant macaroni and cheese and canned pasta meals. Whittle said volunteers also try to include extra food items when students go on school breaks.
Volunteers carefully place the bags in storage bins and deliver them to schools each week. Educators then give the bags to each student in the manner they choose. At the end of each week, the students leave school knowing they will have some food over the weekend.
“It is not just helping them on the weekends; it’s also related to how they will do in school Monday morning,” Whittle said. “If you’re hungry, how well is your brain working? The answer is it’s not working well.”
Whittle said there are a variety of factors which may cause local children to be without food at home, but she stressed children do not have a say in whether or not their families' cupboards are full.
That knowledge, she said, is part of what prompted Associate Pastor Chris Rouse and other church members to start the Sack Pack program nearly 11 years ago.
Wesley Memorial’s Sack Pack program is similar to another program in town – the Sac Pac program offered by local nonprofit organization The Caring Place. While both work to provide bags of food for children in need, Whittle said they each serve different schools in Cleveland and Bradley County.
The program coordinator said feedback from local teachers and students alike shows there continues to be a need for programs like these in all corners of the county.
Whittle has over the years seen many thank-you notes from children who said they would have gone hungry without the Sack Packs. She added some have even said they tried to share their food whenever they could.
“If these children who have nothing can share with others, I have a hard time believing the community can’t also share,” Whittle said. “It hurts my heart to think of children in this community going hungry. There are people who think this can’t be an issue in a town like Cleveland, but it is.”
The program is always in need of monetary donations to purchase food and other needed supplies. Volunteers are also needed on a regular basis to pack the bags and deliver them to schools.
To learn more about the Sack Pack program or to donate, visit www.wesleymemorialchurch.com or call the church at 423-472-9578.
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