Food bank do­nates hol­i­day gifts for Snack Sak pro­gram

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

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.

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