Food bank donates holiday gifts for Snack Sak program
The Southern Mary- land Food Bank is on a mission to make sure local children do not go hungry throughout the school year. This hol- iday season, the food bank was able to con- tribute Christmas gifts and backpacks for students involved with the organization’s Snack Sak program, so children know their community is always thinking of them.
According to Brenda DiCarlo, director of the Southern Maryland Food Bank, the mission of the Snack Sak is to fill the gap of hunger during weekends, when other resources like free or reduced breakfast and lunch programs are not available for local students in elementary school. All book bags are delivered weekly to the schools and distributed by school staff on the last day before a weekend or holiday break to students whose families have fall- en on hard times.
“Five years ago I wanted to do something to help kids on the week- end when they don’t have the free meals and mom and dad can’t make ends meet,” DiCarlo said. “We went to the school boards, got permission to get the program into the schools and then they assigned us the schools. It’s usually the schools that have a high percentage of children with families living in crisis and unrest.”
With a parent’s permission, the children receive a backpack with
food during the school year from October to June. The book bags are filled with 22 ready-to-eat, kid- and aller- gy-friendly nutritious meals and snacks.
DiCarlo said this is the first year they are taking Christ- mas gifts to the students along with the backpacks.
“This year we were able to work with our agency, the Catholic Charities of the Archdioceses of Washington, D.C., to get students put on their Angel Tree list where people can go online and sign up to adopt/sponsor a child in the Snack Sak program, to buy gifts for,” DiCarlo said.
Ten schools currently par- ticipate, with a total of 200 students receiving backpacks with food in Charles and St. Mary’s counties. DiCarlo says the program will have 12 schools as of January with an additional 40 students receiv- ing book bags. The program has a few other schools still on a waiting list due to low sponsorship and contributions to the program.
Lou D’Ambrosio, principal at Arthur Middleton Elementary School, said he had 25 students receive book bags last school year through the weekly program, and this year the program is helping 40 students at his school. He said the Southern Mary- land Food Bank has been such a great contributor to the school, and its Snack Sak program has been extremely beneficial to the kids and the parents.
“The Southern Maryland Food Bank comes through for our families in need,” D’Ambrosio said. “I want our students to have an equal playing field of receiving a gift at this time of the year. Kids don’t understand finan- cial struggle. They only un- derstand that they do or don’t have. Brenda is adamant to make sure these backpacks go to the kids and has loaded it even more for the kids for the holidays since they have an extended break.”
Karyn Timmons, parent liaison at Lexington Park Elementary School, said it is fantastic that organizations like the Southern Maryland Food Bank are giving gifts along with the backpacks. She said the school currently has 21 students who receive bags from the program.
“I’ve noticed an increase of hungry children this year,” Timmons said. “I believe it’s important that as a communi- ty we take care of all our chil- dren. We want them to enjoy the spirit of Christmas that we all feel. We’re afraid sometimes that does not happen very often in their homes. Brenda is such a sweet soul and she wants to fill that need.”
Theresa Murphy, outreach coordinator at the Southern Maryland Food Bank, said bringing gifts together for 200 kids can be difficult, but the organization takes pride in knowing they are doing something great.
“We’re glad to do it,” Murphy said. “I always pray that it gets larger and larger and we always try to surpass the amount that we had last year because we know the need is so great. I’m glad that I have a small part in doing what I can to help as many kids as we can. I really do hope that the children are able to have fun with the gifts that we give them and it makes their Christmas even brighter.”
The Southern Maryland Food Bank hopes to eventually add middle schools and high schools to the Snack Sak program with more help from the region.
DiCarlo said, “Who doesn’t want to see a child to smile more?”
For more information on the Snack Sak program, call DiCarlo at 301-274-0695 or email Brenda.DiCarlo@ CatholicCharitiesDC.org.
Brenda DiCarlo, director of the Southern Maryland Food Bank and outreach coordinator Theresa Murphy at the food bank’s Waldorf headquarters prepare to deliver presents to students in Charles and St. Mary’s counties who are a part of the Snack Sak program.