Summer snack program focuses on local children
By Lauren Jette
Children in Liberty Hill didn’t have to worry about being hungry during the months in between school, thanks to the Summer Snack Program put on by Operation Liberty Hill. In its second summer, the snack program distributed 1,000 backpacks filled with 14,300 individual snacks to kids in the area, said coordinator Meredith Brand.
The program started last summer as a way to fill a void for kids who might not get all the nutrition they need.
“I talked with Susan Baker at Operation Liberty Hill about how we could help kids in the summer time, because I knew our schools didn’t have a summer lunch program and she had previously told me about a backpack program, where you could stuff backpacks with food for kids to take home, and that got discontinued,” Brand said. “I had two boy scouts at the time who needed a service project, so we came up with the idea of packing as healthy as we could snacks that would go to the children of families already enrolled in Operation Liberty Hill or (we could) use those families to find other families who need help feeding their kids over the summer. So we started it last summer and this summer we continued it and it got a little bigger.”
There were a total of six distributions this summer, two each in June, July and August, Brand said.
Snacks were collected by several of the churches in the area, as well as other groups.
“I’m a mom of six kids and my kids are involved in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, baseball, soccer, dance team, so I drew from all those different groups,” Brand said.
She added that Girl Scouts brought donations to their campout, Cub Scouts brought donations to one of their pack meetings and the Liberty Hill High School Liberty Belles donated protein items and leftover snacks from their dance camp, while friends of Brand’s asked Bible study members to bring donations also.
“So really, (donations came from) quite a variety of avenues,” she said.
In addition to the donations of snacks and funds, Baker said she had teams of volunteers who did everything from stuffing backpacks, organizing items and shopping for snacks.
Snacks in the bags included 14 or 15 items each and included things like a fruit cup, granola bar, fruit snack, breakfast item, and meal replacements such as macaroni and cheese, a soup meal and a protein item such as beef jerky or peanut butter, Brand said.
“We tried to have healthy stuff,” she said. “We wanted everything to be very kid-friendly, so that even a young child could rip off the lid and heat it or put it in the microwave.”
For Brand, this program not only fills a need within the community, but also gives others an opportunity to help out.
“As the person who got to see all the kids and families involved in the gathering and packing, they were happy to be a part of something they knew was going to help other people,” she said.
“I think the flip side of that is Operation Liberty Hill had something special that they could give to the kids that made them feel special. I think the children who receive the bags, obviously they benefit from the nutrition and calories, but also, it’s kind of fun and special. It’s their special bag and their siblings can’t have it. They got to have something special that was for them.”
Brand is looking forward to continuing this program next summer.
“I think we have some leftovers that will be enough to carry over and get us started at the beginning of the year,” Brand said.
“We have a community where anyone I tell about this program asks what can I do? How can they get involved? What can they bring? I just really enjoy the gratification from that. It feels good to be able to help people. With this program, a lot of people have been able to participate.”