TEMPLE (April 6, 2013)--More than 76 percent of students participate in the free or reduced lunch program in Temple.
This covers a breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, but is the child missing meals over the weekend? "Many of them are home, but the parents are working trying to make ends meet and the kids are kind of on their own," said Jim Hornsby, Interim Director Churches Touching Lives for Christ.
"We have designed meals that are child friendly."
Hornsby is talking about a new program that was tested at Raye-Allen Elementary in the summer of 2012.
A local pastor approached Gill Hollie, site coordinator at Raye-Allen for After School Center on Education, about possible issues with children going hungry on weekends and holidays. The cost to purchase the food was very high and the pastor was looking for assistance.
Hollie approached Hornsby and now the two agencies, ACE and CTLC, have joined forces to feed children.
Backpacks are filled by volunteers on Wednesdays at the CTLC with seven meals and snacks. The backpacks are delivered to one of the ten schools participating in the Temple Snack Pack program.
On Fridays, the backpacks are discreetly given out to children or the parent.
"Some of the kids at times can be a little cruel," said Hollie. "Say you have to take food home because your family doesn't have any, but with these backpacks it looks just like a regular backpack."
After the weekend, students return the backpacks to the school and get another full backpack.
"There are probably 500 that could benefit from this program," said Hornsby. He went on to say that in 2012, there were 165 homeless children in the Temple school district.
"The young people didn't make a choice," he said. "They come to school tired and hungry and it's holding them back. They are not able to function well."
Currently, 82 backpacks are distributed to ten schools each week in Temple, Rogers and Little River-Academy through CTLC.
The backpacks are sponsored by a family or business at a cost of $10 a month per child. This will feed the child for four weekends.
But this new program is growing as the population grows in Temple. "Kids come to me because they know what's in the backpack and they want that," said Hollie.
"I explain to the parents what the program is designed for and let them explain to the kids the purpose of it."
According to Hollie, kids do not have to be in the reduced lunch program to get a backpack. "We won't turn any child away," he said.
"You never know when something catastrophic could happen and that child needs the support of a backpack for a couple of weeks."
CTLC is in need of more sponsors for children and help with donations of food to the program. Volunteers are also needed to fill the backpacks and deliver them to area schools.
"This program is a community project," said Hornsby. "People keep stepping up to help their neighbors in the community and that's the uniqueness of Temple."
Surveys are sent out to the families periodically to see if they are satisfied with the food provided in the backpacks and the amount. The response has always been positive according to Hollie.
"I think about the kids first and how they feel and it makes them feel really good. In turn that kind of melts off on me and makes me feel good too."
Those interested in donating or volunteering in the Snack Pack program can visit the CTLC website at: http://ctlcministries.org/