The Amazing Grace Food Pantry is helping to remedy childhood hunger with their Food 4 Kids program. In collaboration with Gateway Community Church and Wylie United Methodist Church, the program provides elementary school children with backpacks filled with food for the weekend. Amazing Grace prioritizes foods like canned pasta and soup, individually portioned cereals, raisins and breakfast bars to distribute children. The pantry is intentional in making sure that those foods are nutritious and easy for the children to prepare or open themselves.
“It just makes it easier on the kids. We got to take care of those babies,” said pantry coordinator Karen Ellis. The program aims to keep children fed, so that they can properly concentrate on learning in school and reaching their full potential as children, students and future leaders in their communities.
Amazing Grace coordinates with the Wylie ISD school counselors to identify which students need help in any given week. Children who participate in the district’s free lunch program are eligible to receive food packs and are chosen on a rotation by counselors to receive a pack for the week. Packs are delivered to the schools every Thursday, and are discreetly placed in a child’s backpack by their counselor.
The program is currently only available to elementary school students, but Ellis hopes to expand with the district’s cooperation.
“Our hope is that we can cover other grade levels. There are kids in middle school who are just as hungry,” she said.
Amazing Grace is serving more families than ever in recent months, according to Ellis.
“Even though the pandemic has been a tragedy, it’s also been a huge eye-opener,” she said. “A lot of people who’ve never even worried about where their next meal is coming from are now in that situation, while others have been dealing with this for years.”
She says Food 4 Kids distributed 89 packs last week, and believes that once remote learners come back into the classroom, there will be even more need.
She also understands that parents have various demands on their time and sometimes need help taking care of the basic needs of their families.
“People suffer in silence because they’re ashamed,” she said of those who are hesitant to visit the pantry. “But it takes multiple adults to help care for a child.”
Older students are also helping out with the program by donating their time to the food pantry. Recently, several Wylie East High School students took time during the weekend to volunteer with the organization.
“It was great to have teens back among us,” Ellis said in a statement. “We really missed their enthusiasm and energy!”
Families who believe they may qualify for this program and other assistance can contact Amazing Grace Food Pantry at 972-292-7241, visit their website, or speak with their child’s school counselor for more information. Those looking to volunteer or donate food items can find more information at www.amazinggracepantry.org.
By Shardae White • [email protected]